A Boston-area school with a high-crime neighborhood backdrop is bucking the national trend for zero tolerance and offering student offenders another way to serve their sentences: Talk it out.
Charlestown High School administrators have implemented a new approach to dealing with repeat offenders, a “Diploma Plus” plan that taps into “restorative justice” ideals, NBC reported. What that means is that students who get into trouble aren’t immediately sent to suspension, but rather placed in student-led groups to discuss and settle their issues.
“The idea behind restorative justice is about building relationships, trust and community so people are invested,” said Janet Connors, the coordinator of the Diploma Plus’ Justice League at the school.
The basic aim of the program is to throw a kink in the “school-to-prison pipeline” and give youth alternatives to expulsion — which very often leads to crime and jail.
“Student retention goes down with suspensions,” said Skidmore College Associate Dean David Karp, a sociologist and expert in educational restorative justice programs, in the NBC report. For those students sent from school, “you just increase the chances that they’ll drop out and that increases the chances they’ll get in trouble with the law.”