The Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice recently promised a whopping $63 million to investigate school safety programs and to reward districts for implementing “restorative justice” and other related school discipline programs.
According to an October 1st statement from Attorney General Eric Holder, “This funding is being awarded as part of the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative – a large-scale, multi-agency research effort to build practical, and scientifically-sound, knowledge about effective ways to increase school safety nationwide.”
However, according to a review of past and current restorative justice initiatives in schools, the funding appears to be just another effort to expand whole-child social justice reforms touted by far-left progressive educators like William Ayers.
Believing that the American education system is inherently racist and oppressive and students of color only act out because they are victims of that system, Ayers began writing about restorative justice alternatives to school discipline many years ago. Examples are his 1998 book, A Kind and Just Parent, and 2001 book, Zero Tolerance: Resisting the Drive for Punishment in Our Schools.
In 2012, Ayers led in the writing of a brief titled Increasing Safety Through Restorative Justice: Making Schools Safer for Girls and LGBTQ Students of Color in Chicago’s Public Schools, wherein he again suggests restorative methods like peace circles, student trials, and peer conferences as an alternative to the “disproportionate disciplinary referrals and sanctions” of LGBT students and students of color.
The radical ed organization, Rethinking Schools, says restorative justice in schools is a victory for activist educators like Bill Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, who have been fighting the “school-to-prison pipeline” that they believe exists because of the unfair suspension and expulsion of students of color.
Apparently, the Obama administration agrees.
Just prior to the launching of the current $63 million DOJ initiative, the US Department of Education published a Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline, recommending “alternative disciplinary approaches such as restorative justice” to counter the “racial and gender disproportionality in school punishment.” Resources on “ending the school-to-prison pipeline” are referenced in the footnotes.
The Department of Ed resource also recommends the use of school-based psychologists, behavioral interventionists, school social workers, and mental health providers, all of whom, in addition to other school and district staff, should be trained in cultural competence, “to enhance staff awareness of their implicit or unconscious biases and the harms associated with using or failing to counter racial and ethnic stereotypes.”
Although this DOE resource and accompanying DOJ initiative are recent, the Obama administration’s push for this kind of alternative discipline program is not.
Before deciding to throw $63 million in tax payer dollars into restorative justice and like programs, the Obama Ed Department first tried its overreaching hand at forcing districts to implement them.
EAGnews recently reported that, in 2011, the Obama administration accused the Los Angeles Unified School District of discriminating against black boys who were “suspended for bad behavior at a disproportionate rate.” The district was then ordered to “reduce suspensions in hopes that unruly minority students would stay in school and graduate.” However, the results have been disastrous for teachers and other students in the district who are trying to learn admid the chaos.
Specifically, EAG reported that educators in the district told IBD that even with a restorative justice counselor, they still have the same problems, except now, kids aren’t even being suspended for serious offenses like fighting, drugs, and threats against teachers.
The IBD report continued:
Instead of being kicked out of school or suffering other serious punishment, even repeat offenders get ‘restorative justice’ therapy.
They can negotiate the consequences for their bad behavior, which usually involves ‘dialogue sessions,’ in which teachers join unruly kids in ‘talking circles’ to foster greater ‘cultural understanding.’
Talk invariably turns to racism and ‘white bias.’ Teachers are trained to make sure black kids ‘feel respected.
Couple this with the social justice curriculum thousands of schools are now teaching, and it might seem this is what social justice education looks like when firing on all cylinders. But it’s not – there’s more.
According to David Yusem, the Restorative Justice Program Coordinator for the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), “restorative justice is really part of a larger strategic vision of serving the whole child, and creating what we call “full-service community schools” that even include “medical and dental facilities… so kids can get that for free.”
Yusem continues, “We have to understand that education has to be more than just 3 + 3, right? Kids can’t learn well if they’re hungry. They can’t learn if their tooth hurts. So restorative justice is part of that strategy, and it really works here to empower youth.”
In other words, instead of accountability and consequences for bad behavior, troublesome students – who, through the lens of ‘cultural competence’ and ‘justice’, are viewed as victims of a racist system – are given more free stuff.
Despite using restorative justice to some degree in the district for several years, OUSD also faced a 2012 Department of Education civil rights investigation into high suspension and expulsion rates among African-American boys.
DOJ’s National Institute of Justice says that of the $63 million allotted, $3.5 million is being spent to enhance school safety data collection. Specifically, NIJ says it is partnering with the Department of Justice, Department of Education, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and the Secret Service Division of the Treasury Department to share “knowledge, research efforts, data collection activities and strategies, and programs supported by each agency.”
At the local level, districts receiving restorative justice grants, like Rhode Island’s Central Falls School District, for example, are working with their state departments of children and youth services to integrate all family court juvenile justice data with education, health, and other relevant data on students.
It stands to reason that the federal government will then have access to that data as well – for safety reasons, of course.