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Restorative Justice
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The Spectator
founded 2004 by ron cruger
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 by Laramie Boyd
ecrboyd@aol.com
2014 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
C
        Changes in the meanings of words often occur. A quick check of up to date dictionaries will verify that, and also that new words are coined at every issue. The words gay, cool, racist, marriage, refugees, and straight, come to mind. Now there is another word on the horizon that has been thrown out as maybe needing re-defining. It's "discipline." The Coachella Valley Unified School District is "investing in a discipline overhaul."
        When I was teaching Math and English, way back in the Dark Ages, and a student was having "behavior problems," such as fighting, or worse, a suspension often followed, and the student was sent home so as not to disrupt the even flow of teaching going on in the classroom or out on the playground. Sometimes students were given a reminder on their backside with a paddle. Of course in the 21st century that's called child abuse. Now a new pilot program is in the works, called "restorative justice." It's aimed at keeping the number of suspensions down so as to keep students in the classroom rather than sending them home. This will of course result in the school district getting more money, as state funds are based on the total attendance in the school. Also the student won't miss out on the class work going on in his absence. School administrators are already talking of expanding the program, using new state money they can smell a mile away. What "restorative justice" means, according to the Coachella Valley School District, and this "investing in a discipline overhaul," is that behavior-problem students will sit down with school personnel and discuss their reasons for misbehaving, in an attempt to understand why the students don't follow the school rules. The school officials say they want to get the students to take responsibility and be held accountable for their behavior through this technique, instead of the school "punishing" them by sending them home to "exile." Both the Building Healthy Communities group and the American Civil Liberties Union back the program. State money will be available for the schools if they just explain how the program will also help the poor or "English-learning" Spanish students, and map out what plan they have to spend the money.
        I'm thinking back to some of the behavior problems I dealt with in the classroom. I had one student tell me he didn't like the way I was teaching and proceeded to jump out the window, and the window was shut. Another told me I wasn't big enough to make him do his homework. (I was 6' 2" and 180 lbs at the time). And I can't tell you how many students I had to refer to the Boy's vice-Principal after countless attempts at counseling them about their class disruptions, to no avail. Do the current crop of administrators truly believe that the pupils who misbehave will all of a sudden decide to change their ways when they know that they won't be suspended, but will just be made to sit down and talk? Could it be that the administrators are just seeing dollar signs funneling right into their budget? I'm thinking... I hope it all works out, but LOTS OF LUCK!