Friday, May 26, 2017

Restorative Justice? Maybe Sometimes, but Not Always

I don't oppose restorative justice. I'm for whatever works. I read with interest this piece on using it, and I suppose, particularly at an elementary school, it's best not to use punitive measures where they aren't called for. I also wonder, though, whether sometimes this is pushed at the expense of issues like suspension, which I think needs to remain an option for us.

A few weeks ago, we administered the NYSESLAT in my school. My job was monitoring the test. I'm gonna say right here that proctoring is one of my least favorite activities. To me, it's like watching paint dry. Of course, there are those little moments that spice it up.

A young man walked into the auditorium talking on a cell phone. I immediately walked up to him and told him he had to leave. His response was to repeatedly instruct me not to touch him. I found this odd because I had no intention whatsoever of doing so. I have no idea what gave him any impression otherwise.

I told the young man the auditorium was full of English Language Learners, and that they were taking a standardized test. He said, since they didn't know English, that his talking wouldn't disturb them. That was pretty clever, I thought. Less clever, though, was his repeatedly calling me a moron. I followed the young man as he walked through doors and outside. I've been working in this building 20 years and never realized we had doors on that side, so I guess the young man knew the building better than I did.

I just kept walking with the young man, and talking to him. He refused to identify himself and kept reminding me that I was a moron. I had no plan but just kept talking. Luckily, one of my colleagues noticed our discussion in the auditorium. Actually, I suppose everyone did. But a few minutes after I got outside, a dean walked out, spoke the young man's name, and I instantly walked back into the building and wrote the whole thing up.

I later learned that the young man had blown past two of my colleagues outside the auditorium. Evidently they were not crazy enough to follow him. I was, and I'm glad I did. The student was suspended and I'm not losing any sleep over it. As much as I hate these tests, my kids have every right to take them in peace without undue distractions. To me it was unconscionable to show such disrespect for these kids.

Hey, if there's some method that works, if there's some circle to sit in, if they want to do whatever it's fine with me. But I really felt that not suspending that kid would have sent a message that anything goes, you can do whatever you want, and that admin would sit by and let it happen. I'm glad that mine didn't.

I'm open to better ideas. Feel free to leave them in the comments.
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