Troutdale Elementary shifts focus on bad behavior
If a student is caught violating a rule at Troutdale Elementary School, that student isn't necessarily written a referral or given a suspension.
Instead, staff members may work with all who were involved in the incident to come up with a solution that may not include those more extreme measures.
Shelley Neilson, restorative practices education assistant, who was assigned to Troutdale Elementary School in December 2017, spoke about restorative practices to the Troutdale City Council on Tuesday, May 22.
The term "restorative justice" is more well known in the U.S. prison system, which is used as a way to provide more than just incarceration services.
"In the school system, we see it as an alternative to the discipline-and-suspend model," Neilson said.
Larger school districts in bigger cities such as Chicago, have started to adopt this practice as a way to combat the "school-to-prison-pipeline," she said.
"It's making a big difference in the U.S.," Neilson said.
The model is about fostering better communications.
Neilson told a story about a group of fourth-grade students at Troutdale Elementary who came up behind a few first graders, shouted and scared the younger kids.
Instead of just punishing the fourth graders for their actions, Neilson led a discussion with all students involved. What came of that conversation is the older students apologized for their actions, and now they read to the younger kids.
"We're giving these kids tools that the parents don't (necessarily) have," Neilson said.
Troutdale Elementary School Principal Ed Kranowski said the program creates a system of tiered support that matches the need to address specific issues.
"It's a very versatile system of making students know the expectations," Kranowski said.
If there is a risk to the community, the school still employs a punitive approach, he said. However, with the traditional model, "often the response doesn't match the offense."