Restorative discipline cuts down on infractions in middle school, especially when discipline is driven by relationships, not punishment. Under the old method of discipline, a student receives suspension if they frequently disrupt class. Under the new method, when the student is disruptive, the class gathers in a circle to discuss what happened and why. They also decide what should be done.
At Medrano Middle School in Dallas, administrators report that restorative discipline has drastically cut down on reported infractions. There have been 77 reported infractions this year, compared to 329 at the same time last year.
The intent of restorative discipline is to change school culture, focusing on the cause of behavior and those who have been harmed, rather than just punishing students for broken rules. It originated in the criminal justice system as “restorative justice” and is catching on in Texas.
According to Dallas Gutierrez, assistant principal at Medrano, major incidents such as drugs or possessing a gun still require mandatory removal. However, most problems are minor and can be dealt with through restorative discipline.
“Restorative discipline is really building relationships with kids and teaching them this is the way you handle problems,” Gutierrez said. “What you’re really trying to do is get to the root of the problem to solve it.”