Teachers And Parents Speak Out Against ‘Restorative Justice’ School Initiative

A new restorative justice system aimed to promote equity in schools leads to fewer suspensions, but worse behavior.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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restorative justice

In a growing fashion, schools are turning to ‘restorative justice” disciplinary systems in the name of equity. Data and research show that minority students are disparately the demographic groups being shelled out detention and suspensions. One way schools look to change this is through these new justice systems, that have proven to lead to fewer suspensions. The downside, however, is many teachers and parents are now speaking out against this practice, as they claim it is creating a dangerous school environment. 

The New York Post reports about this new restorative justice system that has been integrated into New York City public schools. The report claims that parents and teachers are depicting “chaotic” classrooms and more violent behavior than ever witnessed. All of these findings come at a time when the public schools are boasting plunging suspension levels in classrooms.

Suspensions of five days or more plummeted more than 42% from 2017 to 2021 after the Big Apple revamped its disciplinary measures in favor of restorative justice. The new system now sends students depicting unruly behavior to mediation rooms that implement conflict “circle” meetings instead of detention. The new program pledged to funnel $1.3 million in taxpayer dollars to further this new initiative. 

An anonymous teacher spoke with The Post, and said the restorative justice system is sinking the school systems “in the toilet.” She is against the system that allegedly would promote equity, saying that taking away punishment for all students does nothing but make the situations far worse. Additionally, the anonymous teacher pointed to some horrific examples, where teachers are being attacked, spit at, and have items in class violently thrown at them.

Another New York City teacher, Kathy Perez spoke out against the restorative justice system. She said that kids have no incentive not to act out in violent matters, and basically are threatened with the educators asking them not to do it again. “The kids know that there are no consequences,” she added. Recently, Perez was awarded money in a legal settlement after she was attacked and injured by a former student.

For students who wish to simply come to school and make it through their day of education, they are often hindered from doing so by the behavior that now disrupts the majority of classrooms. Parents are noticing the issues with the restorative justice system as well. Olivia Ramos, whose son was assaulted five times in a New York City school blames the new policy for his repeated abuse. 

restorative justice

Even school safety agents see the failing qualities of this restorative justice system. Gregory Floyd, head of the Teamsters Local 237 union which represents the city’s safety agents, blamed former Mayor Bill de Blasio for implementing this new “woke” measure in the name of equity. He feels like measures like this ignore the real problem schools are faced with. 

For the time being, only school principals can impose a five-day suspension on a limited basis. School superintendents, can still, however, suspend students for up to a year for certain circumstances. But many feel that the Department of Education is pushing authorities to hand out fewer suspensions through the restorative justice system. It may be a matter to further racial equality, but plenty of parents and teachers feel that it is all about the numbers, and fear that the next few school years will only depict a much worse pattern in public schools.