Tuesday, June 12, 2018

School-to-Prison Pipelines, Classroom Management, and Restorative Justice

restorative justice
Supervising children is not an easy task; managing a classroom of more than 30 adolescents is a monumental feat. It should go without saying that teaching is a profession that is at times both rewarding and thankless. Those who choose to go into the field do so because of a desire to help young people achieve their highest potential even though the classroom is usually the last place students want to be for more than 200 hundred days of the year. Those of us without the task of overseeing youngsters find it challenging to understand how teachers do it; we were all children once, so we know firsthand the patience-trying nature of teenagers.

Most adults can remember the handful of troublemakers they had to share classrooms with, those who made it a point to disrupt lesson plans day-in-and-day-out. It seems like the sole mission of some kids was to be the bane of the faculty's existence. Although, it is likely that few of us could grasp, at the time, why certain classmates acted out; we could not know that forces outside the classroom may have driven some youngsters to rebel.

Some people can probably remember instances of their school throwing in the towel with specific students, deciding that the best thing to be done was to suspend or expel a student; if asked, the school would justify removing a problem child as being a service to the rest of the class and the teacher. Dismissing a student might lessen distractions in classrooms, but it probably did nothing to help the student in question and potentially was a jumping off point to more severe problems. Those who are expelled from high school are far more likely to face the juvenile justice system.

While people most often associate violence and drugs with suspension and expulsion, up until not too long ago faculties could adduce “willful defiance” — virtually anything that disrupts a class — as a reason to expel or suspend students. Then, in 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 420, eliminating willful defiance as a cause for expulsion. Since that time, California school districts have had to focus on what was behind a student’s behavior, address the problem, and help a child change their ways.

Classroom Management


If a classroom is a ship of enlightenment, the teacher is the captain, which make the students the crew. Those teens who pay attention and do their work may one day grow up to oversee a team of employees, or maybe even become teachers him or herself. As with any voyage, the captain must be both stern and fair; and, perhaps more than anything else protect the mission from mutiny. One could argue that students prone to disrupting the class are, in a sense, mutineers; on the high seas the captain might throw the offender overboard, but in the California classroom of today that frankly isn’t an option anymore. It seems the only course of action is to ensure that the "classroom captain” can manage their students effectively.

With that in mind, you may find it hard to believe that very little of a teacher’s education involves taking courses on how to manage a classroom effectively. It’s one thing to tell a teacher that a disruptive student is going to be around whether they like it or not, it’s another thing altogether to say that to an educator who lacks to the necessary skill set to manage the future generations.

“Classroom management is extraordinarily absent in teaching certification programs,” Mike Lombardo, director of prevention supports and services for the Placer County Office of Education, tells EdSource

In fact, a survey shows that when it comes to classroom management, more than 40 percent of new teachers reported feeling either “not at all prepared” or “only somewhat prepared.” The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is responsible for establishing best practices in teaching; last year, the commission made a requirement that new teachers have an excellent understanding of non-punitive methods of discipline, EdSource reports. Restorative justice is one such method, a technique that involves relationship building and making amends. Instead of permanently removing kids from a classroom — a practice that can have a lasting effect (i.e., run-ins with the juvenile justice system, otherwise known as the "school-to-prison pipeline") on a student who likely is only acting out because he or she needs more support — teachers work to better understand the misbehaving student's social and emotional needs.

“[Beginning teachers should] promote students’ social-emotional growth, development and individual responsibility using positive interventions and supports, restorative justice and conflict resolution practices to foster a caring community where each student is treated fairly and respectfully by adults and peers,” according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing's new performance expectations.

Juvenile Defense Attorney


The Law Offices of Katie Walsh specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges or school expulsion, Attorney Walsh can advocate for you and your family in several ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

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