Monday, April 7, 2014

Make an Impact on the School to Prison Pipeline!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Since 2004, I have been a registered mediator in my state which has given me the ability to teach and coordinate conflict resolution programs in several schools.  In my opinion, teaching conflict resolution strategies to students is one of the most important jobs of a school counselor leader.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to conduct a conflict resolution process called restorative circles in one of our classes.  One of our students had a video taken of her in a compromising situation (use your imagination on this one) and the video was circling around a group of female students (asking about trouble).  One day when she walked into the class, some of the girls in the class started taunting her about the video and calling her names so the news quickly spread around the room.  When the teacher heard the commotion, she quickly stepped in to stop it, but the kids ignored her and the class erupted into chaos.  As the student was caught in the middle of the firestorm, she ran out of the room and disappeared into the bathroom. Later in the day, the teacher brought the student to see me and they explained the situation.  Truly, this was a difficult situation!  The student did not want to go back to the class, the teacher had lost control of the students, the teacher was emotional and was mad at the class, and the students were not able to get along so that learning could occur.  So what was the answer?

Several years ago, I had been trained in Restorative Processes by Dominic Barter and had not had the opportunity to use my skills at my school.  Could this process work to restore this classroom back to equilibrium (yes, I am terrified at this point)?

After the teacher and the student explained the situation and their concerns, I asked them if they were willing to allow me to conduct a restorative circle in the class.  Nervous, but out of options, they both agreed.  The day of the circle, I prepared two other colleagues and the three of us went into the classroom.  First, we established some ground rules for the class and started the circle with a short poem. The process contained several questions that we asked students to reflect on and these questions brought out the thoughts and feelings about how the situation had impacted the class.  At first, the student was very uncomfortable and the students acted viciously toward her.  They tried to hurl insults and take the focus off of the impact of the situation on the class, but we skillfully brought the students back to the purpose of the circle and that was to restore the student and the class back to the point that all student are able to learn.  When the process was over, we asked willing students to sign an agreement and told them that we would back back in the couple of days to check on their progress.

What is Restorative Processes?

Restorative Processes in Schools
Restorative Justice in Schools
Restorative Justice League of Le Grande High School Saves the Day

RJ Program Logo at Le Grand High School


Several days later, we went back to the class and checked on the students and we were pleased to find out that students and teacher had been able to work on restoring their relationship!  The teacher said that the students had accepted the student back in the class, they were beginning to treat her with respect, and the class was becoming enjoyable.  So, how is the class six months later?  The teacher told me the other day that the class is getting along and that it has become one of her best classes!!

I could go on and on about stories of how students have fought, got suspended, and volunteered to come together in a mediation to talk about what caused the problem between them.  I could also tell you how many freshmen girls have improved their relationships by learning conflict resolution skills and processes over the year.  Truly, I am a huge proponent of teaching our students life skills that they will use in relationships, on the job, and with other students.

The Problem and a Possible Solution

Rarely in schools do we have the training or the time to help students communicate and solve their own conflicts.  However, there is an opportunity that we can support legislation to fund conflict resolution strategies and training for staff and students in our schools.  The Peace Alliance  is supporting the Youth Promise Act (H.R. 1318 & S. 1307) to give schools and communities the support and funding they need to address youth violence. 
















Youth PROMISE Act! Sign Petition

A Lifeline of Hope for our Youth

The Youth PROMISE Act (Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education) is bipartisan legislation (H.R. 1318 & S. 1307) that will give our communities the support and funding they need to effectively address youth violence issues.  By specifically focusing on violence prevention and intervention strategies, this bill ensures we are funding programs that save lives and give every young person the opportunity to meet his or her potential.
- See more at: http://peacealliance.org/youth-promise-act-sign-petition/#sthash.dxmacF5t.dpuf
The Youth PROMISE Act will:
  • Fund, implement and evaluate evidence-based, locally controlled youth and gang violence prevention and intervention practices.
  • Hold communities accountable by linking funding to measurable success and requiring that at least 85% of funding be spent directly on programs.
  • Create a PROMISE Advisory Panel of state representatives to aid in assessing community needs and resources, developing and enforcing program evaluation standards and overseeing implementation.
  • Engage a wide range of community stakeholders to serve on local PROMISE Coordinating Councils, which will develop and implement custom PROMISE Plans for their communities. The Councils will include:
    • Community and Faith-Based Groups
    • Schools, Parents and Youth
    • Courts and Law Enforcement
    • Health Providers and Social Services
    • Nonprofit Organizations and Other Stakeholders
  • Build on local strengths by partnering with colleges and universities as regional research partners.
  • Establish a National Research Center for Proven Juvenile Justice Practices.
            Fact Sheet

            Evidence Based Solutions


It is important as school counselors that we assist in stopping the school to prison pipeline by supporting prevention and intervention strategies that can be used in school. One of the funding possibilities is that the bill will fund conflict resolution programs that will teach students communication, active listening, mediation skills.



Do you want to know more?

Learn more about the bill at the Youth Promise Action page.


Create a Student Peace Alliance at your school

Student Peace Alliance

The Student Peace Alliance is a national network of students and youth that support peace building legislation and local community service efforts aimed at preventing and reducing violence. SPA organizers meet to support each others' local initiatives and to strategize and implement national actions. The Student Peace Alliance is also embarking on initiatives to provide sustainable professional opportunities, as well as profound peace building experiences abroad, to students with a passion for peace.

Find out more about the School to Prison Pipeline


Cradle to Prison Pipeline Report
School to Prison Pipeline from PBS
Problem with Zero Tolerance Policies
Teaching Tolerance School to Prison Pipeline Article
Rerouting the School to Prison Pipeline-A Teacher's Guide
School to Prison Pipeline Starts in Preschool



















Youth PROMISE Act! Sign Petition

A Lifeline of Hope for our Youth

The Youth PROMISE Act (Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education) is bipartisan legislation (H.R. 1318 & S. 1307) that will give our communities the support and funding they need to effectively address youth violence issues.  By specifically focusing on violence prevention and intervention strategies, this bill ensures we are funding programs that save lives and give every young person the opportunity to meet his or her potential.
- See more at: http://peacealliance.org/youth-promise-act-sign-petition/#sthash.dxmacF5t.dpuf
















Youth PROMISE Act! Sign Petition

A Lifeline of Hope for our Youth

The Youth PROMISE Act (Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education) is bipartisan legislation (H.R. 1318 & S. 1307) that will give our communities the support and funding they need to effectively address youth violence issues.  By specifically focusing on violence prevention and intervention strategies, this bill ensures we are funding programs that save lives and give every young person the opportunity to meet his or her potential.
- See more at: http://peacealliance.org/youth-promise-act-sign-petition/#sthash.dxmacF5t.dpuf