Research is limited on the systemic impact of restorative justice
- Reform efforts in school discipline which focus on helping students think about their actions and remain part of the school community, like restorative justice, are still relatively untested when it comes to scientific studies of their impact.
- The Atlantic reports there is a public perception that violence in schools is increasing, though available data, while criticized, shows a trend in the opposite direction, with one exception perhaps being made for bullying.
- Anecdotally, restorative justice policies have reduced suspensions in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City, but a three-year scientific study on actual effectiveness of the programs is still in progress, and meanwhile, public perceptions of violence are causing some schools to go in the opposite direction and install metal detectors and hire more security guards.
The latest numbers from the Civil Rights Data Collection survey, from the 2013-14 school year, found 1.6 million students attend high schools that have police officers but no guidance counselors. Protecting students from each other and outside threats is critical to creating a safe environment for learning, but when schools seem militarized, critics argue the benefits of safety do not materialize, especially if large groups of students are seen as the key threats. Black and Latino students are far more likely to end up in jail following incidents at school, and the presence of police officers in schools is seen as a critical link in the school to prison pipeline.
Schools that have shifted to restorative justice policies are trying to break exactly that link. Instead of pushing students out of the classroom and out of the school, they keep them there to address the issues at hand and get back to learning.
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