Alton McSween, a former NFL player, teacher, and sports coach, now applies the Restorative Justice principles he learned at San Quentin in his local community and schools. Restorative Justice is now being used in schools as an alternative to suspensions and expulsions because zero tolerance policies have proven to be ineffective. McSween said the Restorative Justice process brings the perpetrator of harm together with others in “talking circle” and or support group, to reflect on what has happened, speak about the wrongs that have been done, and take steps to make amends.
By David Yusem Program Manager, Restorative Justice Oakland Unified School District Harmed people harm people. That is a phrase we use a lot in restorative justice. Traditionally in our schools we have used punishment as a way to distance ourselves from unwanted behavior. I am not aware of any studies proving that suspending for misbehavior increases attendance, achievement, or graduation rates for the rest of the student population. However, there are plenty of studies indicating a direct correlation between suspension and decrease in attendance, graduation, and drop out rates for the suspended student. We call this the school-to-prison pipeline, and here in Oakland, CA, it particularly affects African-American students. At Oakland Unified School District, African-American students make up about 34 percent of the population and, as of the beginning of last year, they made up 67 percent of the suspensions.