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 4 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.
Building Community Healing Practices
YWCA restorative practices work centers on equity and anti-racism to improve health outcomes for marginalized populations, especially Black and Brown students. Zero tolerance policies that encourage police presence at schools, harsh tactics including physical restraint, and automatic punishments that result in suspensions and out-of-class time impact Black and Brown students at a much higher rate and are huge contributors to these students having barriers in school, but the problem is more complex than that.
Student health and wellbeing are also impacted by what happens in their environment. Students who do not have access to mental health support, resources, and conflict resolution skills, combined with antiracist educational systems, often experience more trauma and more trouble in schools. This leads to behavior patterns and discipline patterns that can collectively lead to more serious concerns. The goal of Peaceful Solutions is to assist schools in moving to more restorative discipline that heals harm that has been done and restores the school community resulting in less out-of-class time and more learning for students.
For more information on YWCA’s restorative practices work, contact Jennifer Milani at 513-361-2135 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The graphic below explains the effects of Restorative Practices vs. Zero Tolerance Policies: