San Francisco Unified School District, San Francisco
In 2009, after community-based organizations pushed for change, the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education adopted Resolution #96-23A1, “In Support of a Comprehensive School Climate, Restorative Justice and Alternatives to Suspensions and Expulsions” (hereinafter “Restorative Practices Resolution”). This policy was passed primarily to address the increasing numbers of suspensions and expulsions and the disproportionate number of suspensions and expulsions issued to African American and Latino students. SFUSD began implementation in November 2010. Currently, SFUSD has implemented Restorative Practices as a whole-school model at three schools, including Rosa Parks Elementary School. They are also providing training and support to a number of other schools in the district.
Interview with Coleman Advocates, Alize Asberry, Y-MAC Restorative Justice Organizer
Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth (Coleman) is a grassroots community organization located in San Francisco. Coleman Advocates seeks to improve the lives and opportunities of children and youth by fighting for education equity, good jobs for low-income families, and affordable family housing.
How did Coleman successfully advocate for the Restorative Practices Resolution to be passed by the San Francisco Unified School District?
In 2008, we launched the A-G Campaign, which aimed to increase the number of low-income African American, Latino, and Pacific Islander youth who were graduating from high school with the requirements to enter four-year universities, and not just trade/vocational programs or community college technical certificate programs. During the campaign, there was an increasing concern that Black, Latino and Pacific Islander youth were being suspended the most. We were looking at the suspension/expulsion numbers because we were looking at graduation rates. It was almost an accident but we noticed that the same students who did not graduate were the same ones that were getting suspended. All of this data came from San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).
Coleman Advocates joined a working group to address the district’s discipline polices. SFUSD Board of Education members, Kim-Shree Maufus and Sandra Fewer, in collaboration with community partners drafted and proposed the Restorative Practices resolution. Coleman organized youth and parents to testify strongly in support of the resolution and met with other Board Members; it passed unanimously on October 13, 2009.
What successes and challenges has Coleman experienced in relation to implementation of the Restorative Practices resolution?
There is still a lot of work that remains to be done. It is now the 2012-2013 school year and we are seeing that suspensions are slowly being lowered but the racial disparity has not gone away. San Francisco is a unique place because it’s progressive city where making community change is possible but addressing the racial disparity in suspensions and expulsions remains an uncomfortable topic for the district and district leadership to discuss. But we need to remember that we all are complicit in this, so we all need to talk about the solutions, including racial bias and institutional racism.
What advice do you have for other community organizations that want to advocate for a similar alternative discipline policy?
Looking back, the challenge was not really getting the policy resolution passed but monitoring the progress of the policy. The issue we are having right now is getting the district to give us their dis-aggregated data and work with us to come up with solutions to decrease the racial disparity, progress is happening but slowly. Throughout this process, we have learned that the role of community, students, and parents is essential and to create a sustainable program and not just a temporary grant-funded initiative; you must include all the stakeholders from district and school administration, parents, students, school support staff, and teachers.
Interview with Kerri Berkowitz, MSW, PPSC, Restorative Practices Coordinator
Why did San Francisco Unified adopt the Restorative Practices resolution?
The resolution was adopted primarily to address the increasing numbers of suspensions and expulsions in our district and to address the disproportionate numbers of African American and Latino students who were being suspended.
How much did it cost to begin implementing restorative practices in your district and how does the district pay for it?
In March 2004, San Francisco voters approved the ballot initiative, Proposition H that established the Public Enrichment Education Fund (PEEF). The PEEF budget provided money for social workers, student wellness, sports, and violence prevention. Initially, each school received some portion of the violence prevention monies to fund their choice of violence prevention programs or activities. When the resolution was passed in 2009, those funds were refocused towards implementing Restorative Practices. Currently, we budget approximately $600,000 for restorative practices. This currently pays the salaries of my team – three restorative practices coaches and me and all of our training materials and expenses. We also use these funds to pay stipends for RP Site Leaders from participating schools (last year we had 36 schools identify a site leader), substitute coverage for school site staff attending our centralized trainings, and extended hour pay for school teams meeting about RP after school hours.
Our initial training and consultation with the International Institute of Restorative Practices (IIRP) cost about $2,000 per day, plus travel costs of the trainers. During one day of training, IIRP consultants trained about 40-45 people. In fifteen days of training over the course of our first half year, IIRP trainers trained about 351 administrators, counselors and other support staff. They also provided trainings for all of the staff (350-360 people) at our three demonstration schools through their Safer Saner Schools program for $75,000 per school. That price includes follow-up trainings and coaching for two years.
Additionally, through the Middle School Counseling Grant, a state funded grant for which we applied, we partnered with Educators for Social Responsibility, an organization that provides professional development on classroom management through a restorative practice lens. With the counseling grant, we were able to provide training for about 120 people and an additional.5 FTE social worker or counselor to increase the student support services offered and support the implementation of RP in the participating middle schools.
IIRP provided us with a solid foundation. They helped us build our capacity and we are now in a position to provide our own trainings and implementation support.
How are you continuing Restorative Practices work in your school district?
We are continuing to offer centralized trainings in Restorative Practices to the schools that are interested in implementing RP whole-school. We support RP School Site Leaders through a monthly Professional Learning Community and recently introduced a Whole-School Implementation guide to support schools in their implementation efforts. We offer introduction presentations to schools in their early phase of implementation and offer greater support, coaching, modeling, and training to the schools as they move through the implementation plan. Our approach isn’t to just to provide RP trainings to school site staff. We aim to support schools in a sustainable way that builds in the internal capacity of the school community, including students, families, and community partners. Our goal is for the Restorative Practices principles, concepts, values, and practices to become embedded in the culture of our schools and district. This requires a shared commitment among all members of the school and district community.
Have suspensions, expulsions and disproportionality been reduced since the adoption of the resolution?
We are one and a half years into our implementation of Restorative Practices. In general, we have seen a decrease in suspensions but I believe it is a little too early to be looking at disproportionality data as we are still in the early phase of our implementation roll out. This year our main focus is on School-Wide implementation of RP. We believe that when RP becomes embedded in the culture of the school with systems in place to reinforce the principles and practices of RP we will begin to see a significant decrease of suspensions, expulsions, and disproportionality data.
What advice do you have for other districts that want to implement Restorative Practices district-wide?
Every district is so different. What is working here in San Francisco may not work in other school districts. We are in a unique position here in San Francisco because Restorative Practices began as a Board Resolution and continues to receive a great deal of support from the top down. In SFUSD, the people leading this initiative have been part of the district for years and know how to navigate this system and structure. We have developed a solid training model here that is working well in our participating schools. We strive to build school site capacity and recognize the importance of establishing strong systems of support to reinforce the practice through a peer coaching component. Change can happen if everyone is on board and working together.
A Day at a School Implementing Restorative Justice:
Rosa Parks Elementary School, Principal Paul Jacobsen and Teachers Cecily Ina and Emily Geiges
On Thursday, October 11, 2012, during the lunchtime recess period, Principal Jacobsen made his routine rounds of the playground. A game of tag and play fighting had become far too rowdy and a teacher intervened and sent some of the students to a time-out away from the playground. One of the students had become increasingly sullen and complained that the group of boys “messed with” him every day. Principal Jacobsen escorted the unhappy student, Arnold*, to his class so that they could have a restorative conference with a student involved in the altercation.Principal Jacobsen explained, “Restorative conferencing usually occurs after lunch because that’s when two different grades mix and a lot of altercations occur. We have about 2-3 of these restorative conferences a day. We could just take the kids off the yard when this occurs but they would just simmer and we would not get to the bottom of the issue. RP doesn’t just eliminate conflict. It is an approach to dealing with conflict. Conflict is a part of life. Sometimes that conflict is caused by something at home, which can result in some serious acting out.” After consulting Arnold’s* teacher, Principal Jacobsen told Arnold* that he would be back to pick him up for a restorative conference with Elvin*.On the way back to the 5th grade classroom, First Grade Teacher Emily Geiges was leading her class of students to another classroom. She told one of her students, “It makes me sad when I have to keep telling you to keep your arms by your sides when we’re walking in a line.” Principal Jacobsen explained that this teacher was using another feature of whole-school RP implementation, “affective statements,” which are personal expressions of feeling in response to others’ positive or negative behaviors. “Using affective statements helps us to specify the behavior that a student is exhibiting and encourage or discourage that behavior while improving or maintaining the relationship between the teacher and student.”After retrieving Arnold* from his classroom and Elvin* from a 4th grade classroom, Principal Jacobsen sat the boys across from each other and asked Elvin to explain what happened. Elvin explained that he believed that Arnold* was picking on his cousin. To which Arnold* replied, “Everyone in the school is your cousin.” Elvin* fired back, “Everyone in the school is your mom.” At that point, it became clear to Principal Jacobsen that the boys were not ready to resolve their conflict, he told the boys that he would put their conflict in the “parking lot” and they would pick back up in the morning. He then sent Elvin back to his classroom and escorted Arnold* back to his classroom, on the way back downstairs.
Back in his office, Principal Jacobsen wrote both students names on a dry erase board labeled “Parking Lot” on the wall next to his door. He also telephoned the parents and caregivers of both students. He explained to each of them that there had been tensions between the 4th and 5th grade boys for a few days and that Arnold* and Elvin* were unable to make leeway during a restorative conference.
After he ended the second parent phone call, Principal Jacobsen commented on that day’s progress, “Usually you don’t take an hour settling a conflict but sometimes, you must. Sometimes you also need the parents to come in because when they are involved, we have a better chance of long term success.”
After helping students during dismissal, Principal Jacobsen headed up to the library for the Parent Empowerment class. Parents who attend the class are taught about RP principles and practices that they can use with their children. The class began with a circle in which the facilitator, Ms. Geiges, who is on a RP leadership team, explained that the class would begin and end with a circle. In the opening circle, Ms. Geiges described the talking piece, “The only person who has the right to speak is the one holding the talking piece; it allows us to slow down, thinking about what we are about to say and listen to the other people in the circle.” She then asked every person in the circle to explain their knowledge about and/or relationship with RP principles.
One of the parents related the successful use of affective statements, the strategy that she had learned week before. Through an interpreter, she said, “I was trying to get my youngest girl to get dressed in the morning and she would not do it and it was taking too long. She was making us all late. So I used to say, ‘Why can’t you just listen and get dressed?’ Of course, she still wouldn’t get dressed. Last week, after class, I told her that it made me frustrated when she did not get dressed because then we were late to school. She dressed herself in the morning and then I told her, ‘I am very happy when you dress yourself.’”
After the opening circle, parents reviewed affective statements and then moved on to restorative questions. Ms. Geiges, explained that restorative questions are non-judgmental questions that communicate a desire for understanding and that they are best used in a private setting. “If you are unable to ask your student these questions without anger or judgment, than you should wait for a time when you’re ready and able to discuss the conflict without strong emotions. Additionally, when participating in a restorative conference, it is important to say exactly what you heard in response to the questions.” She then provided the parents with a list of questions to ask kindergarten, first and second graders and a separate list for third, fourth and fifth graders. She explained:
“These questions are asked when a child has exhibited unacceptable behavior, such as hitting a sibling or classmate or cursing. Parents or teachers should ask the student to recall what s/he was thinking when the incident occurred, who was affected by his/her actions, what s/he have thought about the incident since it occurred and what s/he thinks can be done to correct the effects of the incident.” She told the group that if there are two or more students involved in an incident, they should be told that they will both be allowed to answer the questions and tell their side of the story. Teachers and school staff carry these questions with them at all times.
After practicing the questions in pairs, the parents, teachers, and a cafeteria worker returned to a closing circle to end the class. While passing the talking piece in the opposite direction from the opening circle, parents discussed how they were planning to use what they had learned. One parent planned to use restorative conferences when her two young children argued about their toys, while teacher Cecily Ina said that she planned on using more affective statements with her husband. After the circle adjourned, Ms. Ina talked about the changes she had observed since the implementation of RP at Rosa Parks Elementary.
“I have been teaching for ten years, the last five of which have been here at Rosa Parks. This is our second year with Restorative Practices and the climate here is much better. There is a lot less screaming and fighting from the kids. I also see a lot fewer ‘frequent fliers, who usually are repeatedly referred to the office. Now you go through a restorative conference and that’s it. I think that the students feel like their voices are being heard so they are less angry and less likely to act out.”