The United States Department of Education is considering rescinding the School Discipline Letter of 2014, a departmental guidelines that offer direction to schools on avoiding discriminatory use of school discipline policies. The Saint Paul Federation of Teachers leadership and our members strongly support not only keeping this guideline in place, but also increasing federal investment in programs that actually work to create safe spaces for educators and students.
We aspire for all of our learners to experience racially equitable schools. We aspire for all of our students, educators, families and community to experience schools as a welcoming community. We aspire for all of our schools to radically welcome students and to repair harm through problem solving processes that respect the dignity of all.
In Saint Paul, we have taken this guideline to heart as we champion Restorative Practices in our schools. We asked educators at some of our Restorative Practice Pilot sites to reflect on what this guideline means to their school community.
“As a community at Eastern Heights Elementary we have started by asking the questions: ‘How can all students, families and staff feel a sense of belonging and significance?’ ‘How can we create a school culture that has fair processes for students, families and staff to make things right when mistakes are made?’ … ‘How can we support our community members through conflict and give them a chance to learn from their mistakes and repair the harm that was done?'” – Eastern Heights Elementary
“Through restorative practices, we have seen scholars take responsibility for their actions and repair harm they have made with others in our school. We have scholars who are able to self-regulate and quickly re-engage in learning when they are dysregulated. Through the work of restorative practices, we have been able to fully support and teach students social emotional skills, rather than punishing them for behaviors that are the result of dysregulation.” – Maxfield Elementary
“At Parkway Montessori Middle School, we believe in walking together – as learners, as a community, and on the path towards a culture and way of being that builds vibrant community, honors the harm that occurs and that repair and restoration is constantly practiced by all… Learning even more about restorative practices has empowered us to have difficult conversations about race, equity, and how students experience learning in relationship to our adult educators, to themselves, and within our community.” – Parkway Middle School
“At Washington, we have begun implementing the Restorative Practices Framework to build positive relationships between students themselves, as well as parents and school staff members. By building these relationships, students feel more connected with the school and are able to focus more on their academics.” – Washington Technology Magnet
Letters from the above schools as well as from SPFT and SPPS leadership were sent to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos yesterday. We expect a ruling on the guideline from the Department of Education soon.