Sharpening its technique for promptly getting disruptive students back into the classroom is just one aspect of Santa Barbara Unified School District’s goal this fall to improve on its restorative approaches (RA) policy on conflict resolution. Slowly rolled out district-wide over the past four years, RA has replaced zero-tolerance — “just send ’em to the principal’s office” — traditions criticized primarily because they often remove kids long-term or even permanently from classrooms, which is counterintuitive in an educational setting, explained Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Dr. Frann Wageneck at a recent Board of Education meeting.
Under the RA philosophy, each student is part of the greater campus community, all of whom, including teachers and administrators, are coached to take responsibility for their actions and deploy empathy for their counterparts during and after conflict. In that respect, recent feedback from 240 students, teachers, and staff at 10 school sites found that students, in particular, don’t want to be singled out in front of their classmates if and when trouble surfaces. Such focus, they contended, was akin to shaming and does not encourage the development of the adult-student and peer-to-peer relationships that RA aims to foster. Overall, said board President Kate Parker, “It’s really been moving forward in a positive way.”