The Atlantic Highlights Early Progress at Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project School
This week, The Atlantic examines statistics around violence in schools and the growing movement to introduce disciplinary alternatives like restorative justice to make schools safer and improve school climate.
The article cites progress made at our Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project partner school Ebbets Field Middle School in their first year of implementation:
At Ebbets Field Middle School in Brooklyn, which adopted restorative justice this past school year thanks to a grant from the Brooklyn Community Foundation, suspensions have dropped by more than 30 percent compared with the year before, according to Michelle Patterson Murray, an assistant principal at the school.* In touting the approach’s effectiveness, she cited a recent incident in which a student stole an item. “Rather than call her parents or apply for a suspension, we sat in a circle and talked about how her action damaged the trust of the community,” Patterson said.
Our Project evaluator Anne Gregory, PhD is also interviewed, stressing the need for further research and studies on the prevalence of school violence and the impact of restorative justice on reducing incidents:
Anecdotal evidence suggests that restorative justice can reduce violence in schools through exercises like group discussions that build empathy among students, Gregory said, but she and other education researchers are quick to say that there have been few carefully designed studies to back up these claims. By teaching problem-solving strategies as part of a restorative-justice program, schools can “head off fights that are brewing and other acts of violence,” she added.
In other countries that have established restorative-justice programs “there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to show that when restorative-justice programs are implemented, suspension rates go down,” Gregory said. She pointed to New Zealand as an example. In 1989, the country redesigned its juvenile-justice system based on restorative-justice principles and has since “seen plummeting juvenile violence as well as arrest and incarceration rates,” Gregory added.
In her role with the Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project, Dr. Gregory is working closely with the Foundation and our four schools and restorative justice providers to establish benchmarks, monitor outcomes, and measure success. Her evaluation is critical to capturing the efficacy of our work over the Project’s four year pilot period and steering future investments in restorative justice across Brooklyn and New York City.
We’re excited to see national attention for our work so early on, and look forward to sharing our progress more fully in the coming months and years.