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Buffalo, NY: 'Restorative' discipline puts disruptive kids back in the classroom; teachers protest

Dec 10, 2017, Buffalo (NY) News: Teachers decry 'restorative' discipline as suspensions drop http://buffalonews.com/2017/12/10/teachers-decry-restorative-discipline-as-suspensions-drop/ A student is sent to the principal’s office for bad behavior – maybe mouthing off to the teacher, cursing or disrupting class. But what’s troubling some Buffalo teachers is that those kids are getting sent back to the classroom with little or no consequences. That’s according to the Buffalo Teachers Federation, which has raised the matter with district officials after complaints this year from teachers faced with that very dilemma and who ask: How are they supposed to teach under those circumstances? The issue is percolating at a time when the Buffalo Public Schools – along with many school districts around the United States – is emphasizing so-called "restorative" practices, like dialogue and mediation, as opposed to the traditional punitive model of school discipline…. “What’s happening is the state and the district are saying they want to have fewer suspensions and, unfortunately, what is happening in some of the schools, is principals aren’t suspending students who should be suspended to keep their numbers low,” said Philip Rumore, BTF president. Instead, Rumore said, it’s only fueling more bad classroom conduct. “It’s because they are not dealing appropriately with the disruptive behavior,” Rumore said. “When you send a student back to class, the message goes out to the rest of the class that that behavior is OK.” … Restorative practice is a broad term used to describe non-punitive ways of dealing with school behavior - mediation, community service, maybe peer counseling. It isn’t new, but more school districts have moved in that direction over the past 10 years with more research, said Anthony Petrosino, director of the Justice and Prevention Research Center for WestEd, an educational non-profit in Boston, Mass. … One example: George E. Blackman School of Excellence on Main Street recently unveiled its “mindfulness” room, a strategy schools are rolling out to help address behavioral problems, resolve conflicts, reduce suspensions and teach kids how to cope with the stress and emotional trauma that so many bring with them to the classroom. Students go to the room – which has warm lighting, squishy toys and a white-noise machine – to relieve stress and talk out problems.