Pittsburgh Public Schools expands ‘Restorative Practices’ to 10 more schools

The move toward establishing restorative practices throughout the district was driven by the high rate of Black student suspensions vs. their White counterparts and the realization that, under then-existing procedures, there was no positive behavioral reinforcement; students left school for a number of days and came back—the initial conflict was never addressed or resolved and the student was further behind.
But Dr. Ware Allen said the practices implemented so far have also enabled a more proactive approach to discipline, and not just from administrators.
“Staff are reporting it is a way to get students to understand the harm they caused and their impact and allow everyone to understand what happened, why and how to make it right,” said Dr. Ware Allen. “We’ve also learned in some cases staff have been innovators, gotten training on their own and are taking it to a level with student advisory groups that provide voice and help with implementation. It’s also a way to get to know students proactively—student-to-student and teacher-to-student. It can also be used to differentiate way to deliver lessons.”
She said even in schools that do not have the full restorative practices regimen in place, partial analytics they have indicate progress is being made.
“RAND is giving us quarterly updates, so while we don’t have the complete report yet, suspensions are going down across the district and we’re seeing a narrowing of racial disproportionality in the vs control group schools,” she said. “We’re also seeing a decrease in recommendations for exclusionary discipline, fewer and less punitive responses to conduct and more interventionary work.”
Part of that, Dr. Ware Allen said, is the result of the new code of conduct implemented this year, which reduces the severity of sanctions for some offenses and modifies disciplinary application.
“We’ve been moving in this direction for some time—not just applying a ‘recommended outcome,’ we have hearings, collect information and try to keep things consistent but still allow for equity in individual circumstances,” she said.
“For instance, the new code of conduct does take instigation into account for fights. Overall it reduces number of days out—except where there’s a melee. And this is going on in the schools that don’t even have restorative practices yet.”
Dr. Ware Allen also said the district is creating an electronic data system to track conduct violations, actions and responses throughout all the schools, to maintain consistency and to implement improvements where needed.
In a Sept. 26 press release, the district said it plans to install restorative practices in 10 more schools in the spring, and is currently reviewing which those will be. The remaining district schools will all have the regimen in place by next fall.
“Through a system-wide multi-tiered system of support process, which includes the use of restorative practices coupled with positive behavioral interventions and supports, we can meet the needs of students both academically and behaviorally,” added Superintendent Dr. Anthony Hamlet.
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