The State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) today released a report highlighting the success of a restorative justice pilot project in which students learn how to resolve conflict, work together, and avoid conflict in the future.
The long term goal is to keep students out of the criminal justice system. With respect to disciplinary outcomes and attendance, the study found that in the first year alone, at two schools, restorative practices:
Over the two-year period of the study, 628 disciplinary actions were avoided.
“The evidence is clear: Restorative practices keep students out of trouble and in school,” said Chief Justice Bridget M. McCormack. “Let’s maximizes their time in the classroom and teach skills that allow them to resolve conflict through positive interaction instead of simply removing a student from the school.”
The pilot project was funded by the Community Dispute Resolution Program (CDRP) within the State Court Administrative Office. CDRP supports mediation centers that provide staff to schools in order to work with students who are referred to the program.
“Restorative practices” include a variety of processes that are variations on mediation: students identify what the underlying issues were that led to a conflict, generate options for resolving the conflict, and come up with an agreement that ideally not only resolves the immediate conflict, but identifies how they will manage a potential conflict in the future.
In addition to the success regarding reduced disciplinary action and decreased truancy, students reported extremely positive experiences in the program.
For example, 90 percent of students felt they were treated fairly and had a chance to express themselves.
During the follow-up period, 83 percent of students reported that there were no reoccurrences of conflict. Just as important, nearly 90 percent of agreements were upheld.
“This service can help schools meet their statutory obligation to consider alternatives to suspension,” said Doug Van Epps, director of CDRP. “The result is that we can potentially curb the school-to-prison pipeline by giving students early access to these services.”
“Evaluation of the Use of Restorative Practices to Reduce School Truancy and Suspensions” was conducted by Western Michigan University’s Evaluation Center with input from MSC, regional mediation centers, and courts.