An online newsletter produced by EdSource
with support from The California Endowment 


March 7,
Issue 47
School Discipline
In restorative justice circles, a chance for students to lead
Odalys Rodriguez, peer facilitator
Odalys Rodriguez, an 8th grader at Oakland's Edna Brewer Middle School, said she applied to be a peer restorative justice leader because "I really wanted to help anyone in any way I could." Meshack Williams, a 7th grader at Edna Brewer and a peer leader, said the restorative justice circles he has facilitated address such student concerns as: "Are you feeling depressed? Do you question your gender?"

As California and the U.S. Department of Education press schools to reduce their rates of suspension and expulsion, restorative justice has emerged as an alternative disciplinary method for holding students accountable for behavioral infractions. But it's also an avenue for developing student leaders.

Meshack Williams, peer facilitator
At an introductory workshop on restorative justice convened by EdSource's Educators Network for Effective School Discipline, in partnership with Oakland Unified School District, last month, 25 administrators, counselors and educators heard about Oakland's restorative justice program and attended a panel discussion from a team from Edna Brewer Middle School -- Rodriguez and Williams along with Kyle McClerkins, restorative justice facilitator, and Mukta Sambrani, assistant principal. (Watch the panel discussion here.)

David Yusem, manager of the Restorative Justice Program at Oakland Unified, described restorative justice as "a set of principles and practices" designed to create a sense of community and address student misconduct. The goal is to "repair harm and restore relationships" between all parties, including students, teachers, staff members and parents. "It's a culture shift, a paradigm shift," he said.
Kyle McClerkins, school facilitator

And student involvement is key. "My main goal is to get the students to buy-in so the adults will buy-in," McClerkins said.

More than 75 students at Edna Brewer applied in the fall to be in the peer restorative justice program, and about 20 were selected. As part of the screening process, candidates were interviewed by a group of three to 10 people -- administrators, parents and other students -- as well as by teachers. Then comes two school days of training with McClerkins in how to run community building circles. Over time, the students will learn how to run circles that deal with student conflict.

"I look for students who have great leadership skills," McClerkins said. "It does not matter your socioeconomic background, your ethnicity, your grades. I look for all students."
Mukta Sambrani, assistant principal

Sambrani said the student leaders have been effective at Edna Brewer and have contributed to a drop in suspension rates. In 2013-14 and 2014-15, suspension rates dropped "dramatically," she said. This year, the rates are up a bit because of infractions that had to be dealt with through suspension, she said, and as they work with incoming students to bring them into a culture of restorative practices.

Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools: Implementation and Impacts
Video of Restorative Welcome and Reentry Circle in an Oakland School, 2014
Join EdSource's Educators Network for Effective School Discipline.

School Climate
Should teachers 'come out'? Gay and lesbian teachers aren't always free to talk about their children and spouses the way heterosexuals teachers are, writes Peter DeWitt, a former K-5 teacher and principal, in an Education Week blog post.
Student Emotional Well-Being
Mental health help: The rate of hospitalization for mental health issues among Latino youth increased by 86 percent between 2007 and 2014, for reasons no one is quite sure of. During the same period, mental health hospitalization rates increased 21 percent among whites and 35 percent among African Americans
ages 21 and younger.  

A test for grit?: Tests that aim to measure social-emotional skills, such as self-control, cooperation and determination, are being used in nine California school districts. But even some leading proponents of the value of teaching such skills question whether the tests can be accurate. 

Family support matters: Young children who identify as transgender and receive the support of their families experience good mental health, with no greater risk of depression than their peers who are not transgender, according to researchers at the University of Washington.
Student Health
E-cigarettes vs. Hong Kong air: Electronic cigarettes contained one million times the amount of a carcinogenic substance found in heavily polluted Hong Kong roadside air, according to a study by researchers at Hong Kong Baptist University. E-cigarettes are increasingly popular with youth and are marketed to them through brands such as KandyPens. 

In heroin's grip: A new Frontline documentary, "Chasing Heroin," tells the stories of a teenage girl and three other people caught up in heroin addiction. The film showcases efforts in Seattle to address drug addiction less as a criminal problem and more as a public health issue. 
Student Safety and Educator Misconduct
California earns a B: USA Today published a major story about the varied ways in which states  report -- or fail to report -- serious educator misconduct. As a result of incomplete reporting, teachers and staff dismissed for sexual misconduct are unwittingly hired by other districts and states. California was deemed "strong" in state-level screenings before licensing, mandatory reporting laws and transparency in posting online details about teacher disciplinary actions. The state was dinged because "many teachers' misconduct not shared with other states" and received an overall grade of B.
Bullying and Social Media
Graphic text messages: Principals would be allowed to expel or suspend students for sharing explicit videos or images via text under the terms of Assembly Bill 2536, authored by Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Arcadia.

Without respect: Teen girls are being pressured to send nude photographs of themselves to boys they barely know, and the photos are then posted online for boys to judge, says Nancy Jo Sales, author of the new book "American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers." The sexualization of girls has been linked in research to cutting, anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

Great three-pointer, no sugar. The Golden State Warriors, reigning champions of the NBA, reportedly have given up soda on their private plane. The team's trainers have swapped out the sugar for alternatives, including water sprinkled with Himalayan rock salt. "Water is my drink," Stephen Curry, the seemingly unstoppable Warriors point guard known for his far-flung three-point shots, said last year when he signed an endorsement deal with Brita, the water filtration system.
Special Education
A change in plan: As of March 1, the California Department of Health Care Services will begin shifting the way Medi-Cal claims are processed at the state's regional centers for people with developmental disabilities. Some parents whose children receive autism-related services at the centers fear their providers will no longer be covered. 
Madison Avenue advises schools on how to talk to parents about absenteeism
In what scenario is it OK for an elementary school student to skip school?

a. She's already doing well in school.
b. Her good behavior merits a well-deserved day off.
c. Her mother is too tired to drive to school.
e. She's spending quality time on a family vacation.

All of the above, according to a survey of California parents whose elementary schoolchildren missed more than 10 days of school in 2014-15. Now, in what may be a first for California education, Attorney General Kamala Harris has formed a partnership with the Ad Council to bring Madison Avenue communication strategy to the problem of chronic absenteeism, an early indicator of students at risk of dropping out. Absenteeism is a reflection of a student's physical and emotional wellbeing, and the health of the student's family as well.

Two Webinars: Disrupting poverty and breakfast for all
Qualifying an entire neighborhood for federal free and reduced price meals -- known as "community eligibility" -- can be an efficient way for schools to feed students. The U.S. Department of Agriculture presents information on the community eligibility provision and school breakfast models.

Wed, March 9, 10 a.m. PT
Register here.

William Parrett and Kathleen Budge, authors of "Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools," will share what seven high-performing, high-poverty schools have started doing, or stopped doing, to improve school climate and academics. Hosted by ASCD

Thursday, March 17, 12 noon PT
Register here.
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