In order to make equity in schools a reality, research says schools must shift disciplinary policies and procedures to reduce exclusionary practices. Evidence based strategies that support equitable school discipline include Positive Behavior Interventions & Support (PBIS), social emotional learning (SEL), cultural responsiveness, and Restorative Practices (Hanover Research, 2017).
When used as complementary approaches, these strategies establish clear communication about behavior expectations (PBIS), build safe and healthy relationships (SEL), acknowledge the impact and value of culture on teachers and students (cultural competence), and respond to student misbehavior in a manner that heals and teaches (Restorative Practices).
NTPS started shifting approaches to reduce exclusionary disciplinary practices in 2008 leading to PBIS and MTSS adoption in 2009. In 2019, the District began implementing social emotional curriculum and made its commitment to equity with a school board resolution and comprehensive equity plan to lean into the process of becoming more culturally competent. In 2020-21, NTPS launches Restorative Practices.
Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports
Social Emotional Learning SEL
Restorative Practices do not eliminate traditional or exclusionary discipline. Rather, restorative approaches are part of a discipline continuum. They are used at the discretion of teachers, administrators, and students who are willing to accept responsibility for their actions when victims and others involved voluntarily participate. A fundamental premise of restorative practice is that people are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them. Restorative Practices involve a set of adult practice objectives:
Build positive relationships
Reduce and prevent harmful behavior and adult responses to behavior
Engage in collaborative problem-solving to resolve conflicts
Enhance personal responsibility for one’s behavior
Empower change and growth in participants
Repair harm to address the needs of the school community
“Adult imposed consequences cause a child to look outside of him/herself rather than inside for guidance on how to behave. We want kids looking inside, not outside, for that guidance.”
Dr. Ross Greene
Restorative Practices can be viewed through a pyramid of preventive and responsive strategies. At the foundation is affective language. This is language that genuinely expresses feelings or emotions related to specific behaviors or actions of others. It includes both statements and questions that help individuals to develop awareness of how one’s actions affect others, empathy for others, and a sense of personal responsibility among community members.
In the middle of the pyramid are circle processes. Used traditionally by African and Native American communities, circles elicit student input, and promote strong relationships and a sense of community when used daily as an educational routine. Circles can also be used as spaces of healing, places to resolve conflict, and a location where multiple perspectives can be shared to identify contextual problems that gave way to undesired behaviors.
At the top are conferences. When serious harms have been committed and relationships have been broken and are in need of repair, conferences provide offender(s) an opportunity to meet face-to-face and discuss what happened and why, how each person feels, how to make things right again, and how to prevent future incidents. Keys to success are voluntary participation, responsible students who acknowledge actions before meeting with those harmed, parties involved discuss how to make things right, commit to a plan, and sign an agreement to avoid future harms.
TIER I: Schoolwide Affective Language
Reaffirm relationships through language
Development of social & emotional skills
Promote & strengthen the sense of belonging & ownership
Do things with not for or to others
Fair process eliciting student input
Classroom contracts reviewed often
Daily lessons that build community (SEL)
Daily student check-ins
Break the cycle of escalation
Promote expression of feelings
Separate behavior from person
Small impromptu conferences for low-level conflict
Reflective listening & clarifying statements
Collaborative problem solving (empathy, adult concerns, invitation to collaborate)
Tier II: Broad Based Circle Processes
Build social-emotional capacity
Proactive circles (precede incidents, focus on preselected topics, i.e. classroom issues)
Focus on accountability
Reintegrate into the community
Accountability circles (prepare for restorative conference & support action plan completion)
Family restorative meetings
TIER III: Targeted Conferences
Serious harm has been committed
Focus on accountability
Acknowledge actions & accept responsibility
Create action plans
NTPS Office of Student Achievement assembled a team of Assistant Principals during the spring of 2020 to begin looking at research, explore readiness, and identify next steps. The Office of Student Achievement also consulted with district leaders in Equity, Human Resources, and Student Support Services.
An implementation plan was developed based on the research on effective practice. The plan assumes a school-wide implementation of Restorative Practices rather than implementation of a model that is followed only by administrators. This is because Restorative Practice has the strongest impact when implemented as a whole-school, preventative approach to discipline (McCluskey et al., 2011). During the 2020-21 school year, the following schools stepped forward to serve as school-wide early implementers: Lydia Hawk Elementary, Olympic View Elementary, Nisqually Middle School, and River Ridge High School. These schools will receive focused professional development with the following goals:
Restorative Practices: Goals
Goal 1: Foundational structures to support RP implementation are in place Goal 2: There is a common understanding of why restorative practices are being implemented Goal 3: Lead teams in each school are trained in restorative practices Goal 4: Affective language and restorative culture take root in each school Goal 5: Families and students are introduced to the concept and process of Restorative Practice
The BOTTOM LINES
Restorative Practice makes sense for NTPS. It aligns with NTPS’s commitment to becoming a community of compassion that is dedicated to the success of all students. It squares with the District’s race and equity policy and with the Board of Directors’ Equity in Education resolution. Restorative Practice also lines up with NTPS’s educational mission, values, and vision as articulated in the District’s Strategic Plan. The restorative practices implementation plan advances the following strategic plan goals and indicators:
Goal 1: Success in the Early Years
Increased % of children meeting social, emotional, and physical milestones through Grade 3
1.1 Develops and sustains a focus on a shared mission and clear vision for improvement of teaching and learning 1.2 Engages in essential conversations for ongoing improvement 1.3 Facilitates collaborative processes leading toward continuous improvement 1.4 Creates opportunities for shared leadership
Criterion 2: Ensuring School Safety
2.1 Provides for physical safety 2.2 Provides for social, emotional and intellectual safety
Restorative Practice involves deep adaptive work in system and human infrastructures. With vision and values at the heart, the most challenging work for Restorative Practice implementation lies “below the line” (Thorsborne and Blood 2014) where adults are called to attend closely to who we are as leaders and educators, how we stand in relationship with each other and our students, what we believe about behavior, how we teach and heal when misbehavior occurs, and how we use language, i.e. to de-escalate behavior or escalate, to build or weaken relationships.
North Thurston Public Schools does not discriminate in any programs or activities on the basis of sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following employees have been designated to handle questions and complaints of alleged discrimination: Civil Rights Coordinator and Title IX Officer: executivedirectorHR@nthurston.k12.wa.us, 360-412-4453; Section 504 Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-412-4465. Address for both: 305 College Street NE, Lacey, WA 98516.