With the start of the 2015-16 school year, Proviso Township High Schools District 209 has instituted a different approach to discipline through restorative justice.
The program was discussed at the first leadership cadre of the school year on September 16 at PMSA. Leadership cadre brings together administrators and other leaders, including teachers, from across District 209 to discuss and learn about topics that can benefit the district’s schools.
According to Ms. Antoinette Rayburn, District 209 guidance department chair, restorative justice is a "holistic approach to discipline" to use other means of restoring the student on the right path before resorting to other consequences. Those alternatives include counseling, peer "peace circles" where students talk amongst themselves, and other methods.
"We’ll use it as a mediation technique before going to the highest consequence," she said.
Dr. Dianna Thomas, a Proviso West dean, said that she first learned of restorative justice at a neighboring school district. She said that the goal of the program is to help students take responsibility for their actions and their education.
"Our children take responsibility, which is better than any suspension," Dr. Thomas said. "We love it because we’re empowering our students."
Mr. Doug Pedersen, a Proviso East dean, had similar thoughts on the program, saying that students receive extra support from teachers, which has helped to reduce suspensions.
"It offers an extra layer of intervention," he said. "The teacher has a voice and the student has a voice, also. Overall, the students have reacted fairly well."
The program also works at Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy.
"The whole concept is rebuilding and restoring relationships," said Mr. William Breisch, PMSA assistant principal. "We’re hoping to be proactive."
After the reports, the leadership cadre broke up into school team to discuss the implications of restorative justice as well as a new state law that restricts the length of out of school suspensions for students to extreme cases.
Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart, District 209 superintendent, said that she is supportive of the restorative justice program.
"I’m convinced this is the right thing to do," she said. "Students are able to learn when they are in school, and by being proactive in addressing discipline, we are able to help them stay in school to learn and achieve."