Peaceful Solutions: Restorative Practices & Equity Program
Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students are less likely to graduate, obtain gainful employment and achieve self-sufficiency. However, BIPOC students are more likely to become incarcerated and enter a life-long battle with the criminal justice system. These unacceptable disparities are due to implicit bias and institutionalized/systematic racism in the US educational system. Addressing these injustices, YWCA partnered with 3 elementary schools in Northwest Local School District to launch Peaceful Solutions: Restorative Practices & Equity Program.
Peaceful Solutions is an evidence-based approach to resolving conflict, preventing harm, improving school culture, and increasing student success by replacing ‘Zero Tolerance’ disciplinary policies that disproportionately impact BIPOC students with equitable solutions. Rather than removing students from the classroom, Peaceful Solutions identifies the root cause of perceived negative behaviors through restorative circles (a group conversation technique) and assists, school staff, with implementing alternative solutions. By taking this approach, students receive a tailored response to their individual needs and are thus better positioned to achieve educational success.
Since the launch of the program in 2018, disciplinary rates have decreased. However, YWCA discovered Black students are still accounting for over half of the annual suspensions while only accounting for a third of the student body.
What is the school-to-prison pipeline?
Policies that encourage police presence at schools, harsh tactics including physical restraint, and automatic punishments that result in suspensions and out-of-class time are huge contributors to the pipeline, but the problem is more complex than that.
The school-to-prison pipeline starts (or is best avoided) in the classroom. When combined with zero-tolerance policies, a teacher’s decision to refer students for punishment can mean they are pushed out of the classroom—and much more likely to be introduced into the criminal justice system.
The graphic below explains the effects of Restorative Practices vs. Zero Tolerance Policies: