You Talking to Me?

Some schools in Dallas are flipping the script when it comes to the way they're chastening students. Instead of sending them to the principal's office—with those trips often ending in suspensions, expulsions or placement in alternative schools—as per the usual protocol, administrators are opting to talk it out among the teens and tweens. The new approach, known as restorative discipline, is a method aimed at preventing conflicts like bullying, truancy, and disruptive behavior, and Texas is leading the trend among other schools in the nation when it comes to this promising concept.

Once every six weeks, students and educators at schools implementing the program are mandated to circle-up in their classrooms and talk about topics that might be affecting them negatively. But don't confuse this with a group therapy session. This type of setting is the basis for restorative discipline and as one educator puts it, "this way it's all about building relationships." A far cry from the former policies educators have become enmeshed in, thanks in part to a multitude of studies that drew lines of correlation between school suspensions and drop-out rates (not to mention that these studies also showed minority populations were twice as likely to be suspended than their non-minority peers). And even though the program in Dallas just started last fall, the results are shocking: In the first half of the school year, in-school suspensions dropped by 70%, out-of-school suspensions dropped by 77%, and the number of students sent to alternative school dropped by 50%. With such startling stats, it's easy to see why there are plans to expand the program statewide...will your school be next?