Yes to Restorative Justice.
My reaction to the model of restorative justice discussed in the article was, finally. Finally schools see the difference between fixing a problem compared to pushing it out of the way. My school approaches situations like this by kicking the student out who caused a problem, I think this approach is not right. If you never teach a student right from wrong they are just going to continue what they are doing just at a different school. Students might know what they did is wrong because they got in trouble but that doesn’t mean the problem is solved. This approach would be beneficial to my school since they get rid of the “bad apple” students. The model of restorative justice is a smart way to help students learn what they did wrong then fix it themselves. When a problem is fixed, especially when someone is young, it ends up helping them for the rest of their life. Racism and bullying are serious matters that need to be solved now before people take them into the business world and the rest of their lives.
— Julia R., Fort Lauderdale, Florida
The restorative justice model is a very appropriate and effective way to deal with the kinds of issues related to bias, hate and bullying that might come up in a school. Although the punitive approach seems to be most common in schools, I think it can make matters worse, rather than better. Yes, a student is completely wrong for bullying or making any racist/hate comment, but I believe that punishing or expelling them could just make the student angry and they have a chance of doing it again. The restorative justice model lessens the chance of a student becoming mad, and will actually teach them why what they did is wrong and how to fix it. Restorative justice could be seen as taking it too easy, but overall it makes everyone feel comfortable including people that aren’t involved which is always a good thing.
— Jillian Conte, New York
Restorative Justice May Not Be Enough.
An argument that I see a lot of harassers make is that they have the right to their own opinion and that they are legally allowed to say whatever they want. However, in a school building, there needs to be a sense of community in order to give everyone a proper education. Letting these harassers get away with being racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, etc., is completely going against that. I think that schools need to hold people accountable in more serious ways. For example, I think suspending and expelling are perfectly reasonable punishments for expressing any of the things above. I also think it’s very important to have group discussions after you punish the specific person so that the problem doesn’t happen again. There are also times where administrators do not realize how bad the harassment is, or, they are the harassers. In this case, I think more than just the staff should be asked their opinions on what the next step is, and what punishment should be. Overall, everyone should feel safe coming to school. Schools should have student input on how to make this possible and should make it unacceptable to harass or make someone feel lesser than they are.
— Cleo T., Brooklyn, NY
I believe that restorative justice, while it is applicable to all kinds of issues related to bias or bigotry, sometimes isn’t enough to completely root out a problem. Sometimes there’s an at-home issue that’s causing the unruly behavior. Talking it out will certainly do better for all those involved, occasionally additional steps need to be taken. A call to Child Services, perhaps, or a recommendation to a family counselor, among other things. Also, if the child is to be expelled or suspended at a late stage in high school, perhaps contacting the colleges that they applied to and got into would be appropriate, especially if this person is a repeat offender. Protections also need to be put in place for the victims. Restorative justice won’t change those who fail to listen. As long as the bully is perceptive, then you can move ahead with restorative justice. If not, other options must be explored.
— Violet Comet, HHHS
Educate the Offender.
I think that school is absolutely responsible for resolving these issues because schools are preparing kids for life, and in some cases they are also affecting kids’ lives as well. For example, these kids are being prepared for their future by learning not to be rude, racist, or insensitive, but this lesson has to be taught the correct way. Expelling a kid for something that offends another person does not work, and in fact I believe that it reinforces whatever bad behavior the offender committed. Also, this expulsion will be weighing this kid down throughout the rest of his life, preventing colleges, jobs, and future opportunities. I believe that the schools do need to punish the kid in some fashion less serious than expulsion, then the school should begin their education process to show the offender what he did wrong, so he can learn. After this experience this student will know that what they did or said was wrong and stupid, and they will never do something like that again in the rest of their life that would potentially jeopardize their future.
— Alex Jinnette, Houston
I came out at a very young age and have always been secure and open about my identity as a sexually fluid person. From 6th grade to now, I have had to sit in classrooms where people hurl homophobic slurs and make hateful comments towards the LGBT+ community. When I complained to teachers, I never heard anything back, and when the teachers speak on it, it would only get worse because the people doing the discriminating essentially got a collective slap on the wrist. It’s a vicious cycle that has no end. Nobody ever checked back up on me and I’d be worried for folks that aren’t as strong minded, are dealing with more stressors outside of school or even the folks that can’t stick up for themselves without the help of their peers or their school’s administration. I personally believe the best way to hold students accountable is to out them as the homophobes, racists, or over all hateful people they are and give them a chance to learn about why it’s hurtful. When you expose the problem and make people uncomfortable with their own ignorance, they’ll change because they actually understand that it’s wrong. When schools hold assemblies to address them as a collective it rewards them with anonymity and gives them the chance to ignore the people they hurt and mask their hateful banter around school administration to avoid punishment.
— Nicole Obianwu, BMHS, Forestville, MD
There’s a very simple way to lessen bullying incidents, but schools often don’t care or don’t have the budget to do so. A classroom with a healthy, positive environment can make students feel more connected and friendly towards each other. Schools can teach history about marginalized groups in order to deter discrimination and foster education and understanding. English classes can read books about a protagonist who is a person of color or LGBT or both, so students who are not a part of those groups can learn what it’s like, and students who are a part of those groups and relate and feel less alone….
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .