A student yells at a teacher, engages in an altercation with a peer or is continually late to class. For decades, under a zero-tolerance framework, the result has been the same: detention, suspension or even arrest.

This strict, exclusionary approach has fostered a school climate across the nation that has over-emphasized discipline, built barriers between students and teachers and disrupted learning.

Over the past five years, we have begun to see a shift in the paradigm with a mix of new approaches to school discipline. For example, those very same student actions are now increasingly followed by a “restorative circle,” where the students work together to repair the harms done and make things right for all involved.

Through this process, school leaders are able to not only agree on a more proactive, restorative response to discipline problems, but also empower students to build positive relationships, make smart decisions and hone their problem-solving skills.

POSITIVE BEHAVIOR INTERVENTIONS AND SUPPORTS

Some schools are adopting restorative circles within a broader context of proactive approaches, like the school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) framework, which establishes the climate that can help students achieve social, emotional and academic success. Restorative practices can work in concert with PBIS to promote a school climate defined by empathy, understanding and peaceful mediation.

That type of climate, according to a joint 2013 study from the National School Climate Center and Fordham University, can also pave the way for increased student motivation and achievement rates—as well as decreased dropout rates, substance use and incidences of violence. Instead of fading into the background or struggling to manage their emotions, youth constructively respond to conflicts and leverage a comprehensive support system.

Some school districts have embraced this new paradigm over the past eight years, phasing out zero-tolerance policies with these transformative and proactive approaches to school discipline. The results coming in from across the country over that time have been impressive. Read the remainder of this post on the Education Post blog.