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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
Last week, Hamilton County commissioners voted to appropriate $70 thousand to “address discipline disparities and aid implementation of restorative practices in local schools.”
Chattanoogans in Action for Love, Equality and Benevolence (CALEB) called it “a community win” and thanked Commissioner David Sharpe for his help in getting the funds appropriated to the CALEB fund with the Hamilton County Schools Foundation which is a non-profit partner to Hamilton County Schools, helping to raise funds for initiatives that are not included in the regular school district budget.
UnifiEd piloted a Restorative Justice program at Orchard Knob Elementary during the 2019-2020 school year in which all 2nd and 4th-grade teachers were trained to implement sharing circles and participate in Restorative Justice practices. CALEB is supporting full staff training, coaching and research feedback for two years at the school. Their long range plan is to see district-wide implementation for all of Hamilton County schools that reduces “harm to students from exclusionary discipline.”
J.C. Bowman, Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, has stated that the objective of Restorative Justice is to reduce the number of suspensions in school.
In 2019, Bowman said, “The concept of Restorative Justice may be noble, but the implementation is often flawed and harmful.”
In a forum for teachers on Reddit, one frustrated teacher claims that Restorative Justice “panders to the perpetrator but rarely the victim.”
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One teacher said, “I think restorative justice works really well for small things. You wrote on my desk? Then you get to come to lunch and clean all of them. Mess in the cafeteria? You know what’s next. Restorative justice works for material harms. There is no way to do restorative justice for punching someone in the face for no reason or calling them a slur.”
Another admitted, “If troublemakers pretend to be remorseful for a minute they can get away with anything. Victims are under pressure from adults to accept insincere apologies from bullies.”
Hamilton County parents say Restorative Justice is failing children who are mistreated by other students. Children on the receiving end of bullying are leaving restorative practice meetings feeling like they are in the wrong and their attacker is the victim. “They want the victim and the bully to shake hands and become friends,” said one mother whose daughter was made to go through the process. “The child that did this to my daughter never apologized, had no remorse and said she deserved it.”
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org.