By Woo Han
The Mirror Staff
“From September of 2015 until now, we have achieved so much, and we (Restorative Justice) have helped so many students with their academic and social lives,” says Dr. Terarakelyan.
Restorative Justice in, Suspensions out
PHOTO BY TOMMY CHAN
FEATURE: A program dedicated to building strong relationships among students, teachers, and the administration, Restorative Justice (RJ) has helped reduce number of suspensions.
Based on school data, there has been a significant decrease in the number of referrals used by teachers and staff and in suspension events this school year at Van Nuys High School.
In fact, the amount have suspensions has decreased to just 1 in the 2016-2017 school year as of January 2017, compared to 10 last year—an impressive feat for a campus of nearly 3,000 students.
According to the Los Angeles Unified School District Summary of Student Expulsion Procedures, a student is suspended when he or she “is charged with violating one or more subsections of Education Code.”
Suspension is the second to last resort when a student is having issues with behavior.
But the propensity towards misconduct drastically decreases when students are in a more constructive learning environment, as demonstrated here at Van Nuys High School.
A program dedicated to building strong relationships among students, teachers, and the administration, Restorative Justice (RJ) has helped bring about change.
With the introduction of RJ, the general language surrounding misconduct has been changed, the referral system has been improved, and a new discipline policy has been created.
The VNHS School-Wide Positive Behavior Support and Intervention Policy is a due process discipline procedure that ensures that students receive fair and consistent opportunities to be successful.
Rather than being reprimanded, students receive counseling to help them recover from incidents more quickly and reduce the chances of a repeat offense.
“From September of 2015 until now, we have achieved so much, and we have helped so many students with their academic and social lives,” says Dr. Terarakelyan, the Restorative Justice Coordinator.
The entire VNHS faculty—teachers, administrators, and campus aids—has been trained in RJ through faculty meetings and workshops, enabling them to implement the practices in their respective settings.
The deans and counselors have also adapted RJ language when they write their incident reports. Rather than referring to “victims” and “perpetrators,” they are now “harmed” and “harmer.”
As teachers and administrators become more familiar with RJ, the RJ team hopes to maintain a positive atmosphere for both students and faculty all around the campus.