Monday, October 15 , 2018, 9:16 am | Fair 62º


Santa Barbara District Considering Expansion of Restorative-Discipline Program

Some Santa Barbara schools have been trying different strategies to deal with student discipline, and officials are about to evaluate the effectiveness of those tactics.

A restorative-approaches program that began as a pilot in the Santa Barbara Unified School District at Santa Barbara Junior High in 2012 has since expanded to the other three junior highs, all district high schools and two elementary schools, Cleveland and Washington.

The district might roll out the program to the rest of elementary schools, but staff will first conduct an evaluation of implementation so far.

What the district refers to as “restorative approaches” are alternatives to the traditional ways of disciplining students who are disruptive in class, get into disagreements on the playground and more. 

“Generally, restorative approaches are more of a philosophy,” said Frann Wageneck, assistant superintendent of student services.

“Traditionally, we would remove that student from the classroom. (But) in instances where we’re not mandated by education code to suspend or expel a student, how can we use restorative approaches to hold them accountable?”

The program that aims to keep students in class and to cut back on suspensions of Latino students — since officials discovered an imbalance in that area  — already has increased attendance and decreased suspension rates and recommendations for expulsion, she said.

Instead of removing students, teachers could talk with them out in the hallway, have them meet with a victim in a conference, or try to do an in-school suspension instead of out of school.

Wageneck said restorative approaches focus on the five R’s: relationships, respect, responsibility, repair and reintegration.

The idea for the program came from a national push to own up to behavior and make amends — similar to restorative justice in prison.

“If we focus on the building of relationships and have respect … then we won’t need to use traditional student-discipline guidelines except in more extreme cases,” she said. “There’s a place for taking responsibility. Our schools are a community.”

Wageneck and her staff presented their program evaluation plan to the district Board of Education at a recent meeting, explaining they’d like to conduct 42 focus groups across the sites before January. 

They will ask staff, teachers, students and administrative employees for opinions on how the program was implemented, if staffing is sufficient, if more training is needed, etc.

School board member Kate Parker said the information might be eye-opening and wondered what evaluations would look like in coming years.

Staff said they hoped to do the evaluations on each site every year.

“I think that’s a lot,” school board member Monique Limon said of 42 focus groups. “I am worried about capacity.”

Wageneck reassured officials there would be enough time and staffing to get the job done. She hopes to present evaluation results in the spring.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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