EYE OF THE TIGER’S VIEW: Non-straightforward punishment method successful


Beginning last school year, RJUHSD started transitioning away from a punitive punishment model to a restorative model, in an aim to cut down on suspensions. Rather than relying on suspensions to deal with misbehavior, the restorative model encourages schools to help students address the causes of these behaviors and rebuild relationships.

This aim is not only honorable, but more than called for based on RJUHSD’s suspension track record. In part, the new policy to cut suspensions stems from a recommendation from the California Department of Education, which placed RJUSHD on “Differentiated Assistance” for having a high suspension rate based on its student population.

And so far, it has been successful. Compared to this time last year, the district has 169 fewer suspensions on its campuses.

Society has reached a place where it understands that the older, more “straightforward” punitive punishment model is less effective in terms of long-term behavior.

While sometimes effective in “deterring” behavior, it fails in the aspect of teaching why something is wrong, what people should do instead and how someone can change their ways after building up both a habit and “reputation” so-to-speak of making poor decisions.

Suspensions do not provide actual solutions to the problems that caused the problem in the first place – they provide incentive not to misbehave and at most give students time to let tensions die down before returning to school.

For what they cost the district – essential educational hours for the students to be in class, whilst fostering anger and doing little to make returning to the classroom any easier – they do not provide enough benefits to make them a strong default for punishment.

In contrast, the restorative model intends to limit the hours of school a student must miss and utilizes the time students do spend outside of class to provide the solutions that the punitive model is sorely lacking.

It gives students the tools necessary to rebuild relationships, to re-enter the classroom, to modify behavior for the long-term.

And it is a long-term transition – no one will wake up with a perfect, restorative plan to each case of misbehaviors on campus. But it takes striving for restorative practices for RJUHSD to have any chance at finding less “deterrents” and more solutions.