Changing student discipline with Restorative Justice practices

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DAVISON (WJRT) - (08/21/17) - Schools across Michigan are being asked to change the way they discipline students. The "zero tolerance" offenses will now have a different outcome. Instead of immediately suspending or expelling a student, the district has to come up with a Restorative Justice policy.

There are seven factors that must be evaluated before a discipline decision is made.

They include student's age and disciplinary history, whether or not they have a disability, the seriousness of the violation or their behavior, whether what they did threatened anyone else's safety, if restorative practices will be used to address their wrongdoing and if a lesser intervention would properly address their actions.

Schools had to have this policy in place by Aug. 1.

We asked Davison Community Schools how they're making it work this school year.

"The whole point is that the offender has the opportunity to repair the harm and build and restore the relationships," said Holly Halabicky, the executive director of student services.

She says improving school climate has actually been a priority in Genesee County for the past decade.

"The difference now is that we're also going to be providing those students an opportunity to increase their empathy to hear how this affected other people," Halabicky said. "And, then there has to be a joint collaboration agreement on how is that harm going to be repaired."

They're planning on through a face-to-face meeting or planning session, even community service, because she says suspensions aren't always the answer.

"Instead of automatically kicking students out, we are now provided the opportunity to teach them a life lesson that could actually change their lives as opposed to having sitting at home probably unsupervised, if you're a teenager, doing who knows what, but certainly not learning and not working to become a productive contributing member of our community and society," Halabicky said.

The school board will determine what restorative justice action will be taken on a case-by-case basis.

Firearms will still never be tolerated on school property.

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