Are “Restorative Practices” the Future of Discipline in Dallas ISD?

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DALLAS -- Everyone knows what happens when you act out in school - you get sent to the principal's office, right?

But at Medrano Middle School - and, now, more than a dozen other Dallas schools - it's out with the old, and in with "restorative practices."

"Restorative practices is basically bringing people together," said Dallas Gutierrez, Medrano's 6th grade Assistant Principal, "One that's caused harm, and one that's been harmed, and letting them talk it out and come up with a solution to make it right."

Yep, instead of just punishing students who act out of line, administrators here get kids talking - both one-on-one and in groups.

Said Gutierrez, "It's really about getting to the root of the issue and solving that problem."

Regular "circle sessions" are a big part of the strategy.

"The relationship factor is to me the most important piece," said 6th-grade science teacher Alandra St. Clair. "It helps you understand the behavior that some of them are displaying and why they're displaying it."

And when students do act out?

"They're not hearing it just from me," Ms. St. Clair said. "They're hearing it from their peers, from their friends."

Last year was the first year for these new techniques. So what did restorative practices' grades look like?

"We went from almost 375 referrals to only 175 in one year," said Gutierrez.

Hey, cutting referrals in half ain't too shabby!

And it makes you wonder: how much would change in the real world if grown-ups heard each other out more, too? Maybe schools like Medrano should be an example to other schools, and to the rest of us.