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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'Restorative' backlash: Legislators propose tougher school discipline


A Florida high school student attacked a teacher's aide, sending her to the hospital, on Feb. 24.

Legislators are "moving to make it easier to kick disruptive students out of school" in response to "a pandemic-era surge in school gun violence and student misbehavior" that some blame on lenient discipline policies, reports Patrick Wall on Chalkbeat.


Legislation is moving forward in Florida, Texas, Nebraska, North Carolina, West Virginia, Arizona and Nevada, he writes.


Teachers' unions support some of the proposed laws.

In Nevada, the state union said the legislation is necessary to protect educators, who have expressed “alarming concerns about personal safety.” Clark County, the state’s largest school district, was rocked by several incidents of student violence last year, including the brutal attack on a Las Vegas teacher for which a 16-year-old student was charged with attempted murder.
The Nevada bills would roll back a 2019 law that required schools to adopt “restorative justice” practices, which aim to replace suspensions and expulsions with mediation and relationship building.

Kentucky's Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, signed a bipartisan bill that lets schools “permanently remove” disruptive students and place them in alternative settings, including online programs.


More than 20 states enacted "restorative justice" policies over the last decade, according to an analysis by the Center on Gender Justice & Opportunity at Georgetown Law, Wall writes. Schools were under heavy federal pressure to reduce expulsions and suspensions.


Now those policies are being blamed for the rise in disruptions and dangerous behavior.

In one of many letters from educators backing the new bills, Las Vegas teacher Kristan Nigro wrote that her school took little action after one of her kindergarten students hit other children and threw scissors at the teacher.
“It is not fair that a student can walk into a classroom and be violent and disruptive without any consequences,” wrote Nigro, who is on the leadership council of the Clark County teachers union. She blamed the lax discipline on restorative justice, calling it “just a fancy buzzword and a complete failure.”

"Other educators say most schools never fully enacted the discipline reforms due to inadequate training and resources, making it difficult to address the underlying issues that can cause students to act out," writes Wall. "Machelle Rasmussen, a social studies teacher in North Las Vegas, said her high-poverty high school has nearly 3,000 students but no social worker."


Restorative justice, done well, is time consuming, writes Meredith Coffey, a former high school English teacher, on The 74. She's seen it work at a school where small classes -- she had only 40 students in all her classes combined -- made it possible to develop strong relationships and make time for "student-teacher-advocate-counselor" conferences to discuss problems.

"Having a strong team of social workers or school psychologists also helps a ton," writes Coffey. Again, it takes a lot of adults to make it work.

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21 Comments


Richard Rider
Richard Rider
May 12, 2023

The fact that everyone wants to avoid is that PER STUDENT, black kids AND young adults are far more prone to be violent than any other demographic. It reflects the black "gangsta" culture that is so popular with young blacks and tolerated by black leaders. It is NOT DNA. FACT: With only 13% of the nation's population, currently blacks commit about 58% of all the nation's murders. 90+% of blacks murdered are killed by other blacks. Similar ratios are found for assault, rape and robberies. It's so bad that many urban woke police departments no longer report the crime demographics by race. How that's supposed to help the black communities is a complete mystery to me.

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Richard Rider
Richard Rider
May 12, 2023

Disruptive and violent students SHOULD be kicked out of regular classes and sent to high security classes prepared to deal with such problems. Including "juvenile hall" (a.k.a. prisons for minors). MORE importantly, the rest of the kids can get what they are sent to school to get -- a useful education. Teachers that dump too many of their students will soon find their classes combined --which results in fewer teachers -- something that neither the unions OR the teachers want. So they have an incentive to keep kids if they are not too big a problem -- a balance of sorts. I'd like to see teachers partially paid on a per student basis. Fewer students mean lower pay, but the teachers hav…

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Guest
Apr 04, 2023

I suspect that students who are prone to violence are also academically underperforming. Removing such students from classrooms should be a priority goal of teachers and their unions. 1) Average test score performance (for the kids remaining) goes up as the poor performers leave. 2) Individual scores go up as somewhat more marginal students are less distracted by violent incidents in classrooms (hallways, lunchroom, etc) 3) The teacher /student ratio improves as the total number of kids goes down. Fewer assignments to grade... 4) Troublesome students tend to have troublesome, if not trouble-making, parents (or custodial care-givers) Give the headache to somebody OUTSIDE the classroom.

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Guest
Apr 06, 2023
Replying to

Because idiots in state legislatures decades ago wrote COMPULSORY ATTENDANCE laws which have nothing to do with actually getting an education...

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Guest
Apr 03, 2023

When I attended junior high and high school, the troublemaking kids, and everyone knew who they were, got sent to what was called OPPORTUNITY school, where you were made to sit in class with heavy security and school police presence and many kids for some reason didn't like it and wanted

to get back to their home school.


A kid I knew in 7th and 8th grade had a nickname of Yo-Yo as he bounced back between regular and opportunity school...during the last 9 weeks of 8th grade, he asked the dean with me standing there if he could come back to regular school to finish out the year, the dean's response was "NO, in less than 9 weeks, you…


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Guest
Apr 03, 2023

My view of unions is that their foundational purpose is worker safety. Where have the teachers' unions been while this bs was propagating? By not vociferously protecting teachers (and students), they have proved once again that improving the lives of teachers is not actually their goal.


Ann in L.A.

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