For Immediate Release: 7/30/2018
State Agencies Partner to Expand Restorative Justice Training to 25 School Districts and BOCES across New York State
Educators trained to teach their peers to implement restorative justice within schools in their communities
Restorative justice centers on personal responsibility in conflict resolution, reduces reliance on suspension and other exclusionary discipline
More than four dozen educators from Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and their partnering school districts have successfully completed a training that will allow them to teach their peers to implement restorative justice, which can reduce reliance on suspension and other exclusionary discipline. Professionals from 25 BOCES and school districts last week attended the training, made possible through a partnership among the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), state Education Department and the New York State School Boards Association.
The four-day, train-the-trainer program will allow more schools across the state to implement restorative justice, an evidence-based strategy that encourages students to take personal responsibility for their actions and reconcile wrongdoing with their school community. Educators who attended the training will implement these practices in their respective schools during the upcoming academic year, after which they will be certified as trainers and can teach the curriculum elsewhere in BOCES or their school district.
“Restorative justice helps students accept responsibility for their misbehavior and then take steps to make amends with the individual they harmed or school community they disrupted,” DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said. “This training will provide an opportunity for these schools to adopt a research-based, best practices approach that is aimed at achieving better outcomes for at-risk students and reducing a reliance on strictly punitive methods of discipline, which are often ineffective.”
Restorative justice uses mediation conferences to encourage the offending individual to accept responsibility for wrongdoing and then reach a resolution to repair the harm they caused. The training curriculum includes the basics of restorative principals, tools for building a healthy classroom community, building and maintaining student-teacher relationships, simple non-adversarial problem-solving methods, and methods of conflict resolution. During the training, participants engaged in restorative justice role-playing exercises and developed action plans to implement the strategy.
The state Education Department collaborated with the Office of Youth Justice at the Division of Criminal Justice Services to develop the train-the-trainer model, which was funded by a $35,000 federal grant awarded to the School Boards Association. The Association, in turn, will promote the training and improve participation among BOCES and school districts across the state. A list of participating BOCES can be found here.
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said, “The Board of Regents and I are committed to helping our schools provide a safe and supportive environment for all students, teachers and staff. Research shows that to improve school safety, we must first take deliberate steps to create positive school climates that can help prevent and change inappropriate behaviors. And schools that use restorative practices have seen improved climates. These practices help students better understand their own behavior, how that behavior impacts themselves and others, and ultimately to use that awareness to repair the damage caused by their inappropriate behavior. When students learn these skills, they are better able to handle conflict effectively and non-violently and make responsible decisions – which results in a safer and more supportive environment for all.
Timothy G. Kremer, Executive Director of the New York State School Boards Association, said, “With buy-in from teachers and parents, restorative justice is a technique that can build a sense of community in a school, reduce disciplinary suspensions and help students grow. Successful implementation requires ongoing training and a willingness of all concerned to try something new. The New York State School Boards Association encourages its members to learn about restorative justice.”
This collaboration is the latest effort by the DCJS Office of Youth Justice to support the implementation of restorative justice practices across the state. In 2015, staff from the office worked with the Western New York Regional Justice Team to bring the practice to the region. Since then, more than 2,200 teachers and school professionals have been trained in its principles, which are now implemented in 21 schools in that area. Regional Youth Justice Teams in the Capital Region, Mohawk Valley, and Long Island also worked with the Office of Youth Justice to offer train-the-trainer workshops for school personnel, collectively training professionals from three BOCES, 26 school districts, and 13 other organizations, including probation departments and social services agencies.
The DCJS Office of Youth Justice supports the work of nine Regional Youth Justice Teams that are tasked with improving the youth justice system in their regions. Each team has representatives from local government agencies, service providers, the judiciary, community organizations and youth and families who have been justice-involved. The Office of Youth Justice provides technical assistance to those teams and the New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, which administers federal funds provided to the state.
Under the leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York State has championed several initiatives aimed at improving outcomes for at-risk youth and those involved with the criminal justice system, including passage of a landmark Raise the Age law. Once fully implemented, the state’s age of criminal responsibility will be 18, instead of 16. This law also is designed to ensures that youth who commit non-violent crimes receive the intervention and evidence-based treatment they require to help them lead crime-free lives.
The Division of Criminal Justice Services (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the states DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.