How the school is implementing restorative justice strategies to combat truancy
Blair’s new security and truancy policies will focus on restorative justice and be implemented by all staff members, not just security guards. The philosophy, starting in the 2022-2023 school year, is inspired by a countywide responsibility to social justice.
While more students may initially be pulled out of the hallways to talk to an administrator, Blair staff hope to end the pattern by offering these students whatever support they need. “It's not so much new policies as it is a new focus,” Assistant School Administrator Rahman Culver said.
The idea is more in line with restorative justice philosophies. “We should be trying to focus less on punishment as a way to engage students and manage some of these challenges, [and instead] we should be focusing on trying to get to the root of the behaviors," Culver said.
Rather than in-school suspension and other punishments that take students away from learning, administrators are offering up new solutions like engaging with the Kindness Corner, doing service with some of our SSL opportunities, student aid, and mediation.
Another big change this year is that security personnel at Blair will no longer be the only ones responsible for enforcing security policies. The role will be spread more evenly across teachers, administrators, and other support staff in the building.
The social climate of the county, and even of America as a whole, have played a role in the new practices. With unpredictable threats and acts of violence in school buildings becoming more common, Culver believes that it is essential that students are in their classrooms. “If our security officers have to be traipsing all over campus chasing folks down when we do actually have an emergency, that puts the entire community at a disadvantage. Or if [security officers are] sitting here trying to run after folks, just to see if they’re in the rooms they’re supposed to be in, they’re less able to determine when a trespasser is actually here,” he explained.
However, while school violence has increased the importance of security policies, some other aspects of our social climate such as the pandemic have made them less strict. "We have been very gracious in the year coming back from Covid because we’re trying to find the right balance. And that's part of being engaged in trauma-informed practices too — we want to make sure that we’re doing things that are not going to be overly punitive and perhaps re-traumatizing to someone. We perhaps overcorrected for that, meaning that we were so engaged in extending grace that we lost some of the structure that sometimes serves students well," Culver reflected.
With the reintroduction of structure, Culver hopes to see more teachers working to connect with their students, and more students being excited and motivated to learn. “Above anything else we just want to make sure folks are having a meaningful, relevant, and positively enriching experience. And when that’s not happening, we want to figure out why and try to make some changes," he said.
Kate Gray. Hi! I'm Kate (she/her) and I'm a videographer and staff writer at SCO. I enjoy swimming, acting, reading, and playing with my dog. More »