Today we're talking about Restorative Justice and how some schools are shifting their approach to student discipline. Eric Butler is the Restorative Justice Coordinator at Ralph Bunche High School in Oakland. There are over 20 schools in Oakland that have incorporated some sort of restorative approach to discipline. This means, instead of a punitive approach to issues at school, all parties are encouraged to address the harm that's done and then try to repair any harm that was caused in their community. Eric Butler says the approach is a complete shift from how schools traditionally deal with discipline.
ERIC BUTLER: "We’re doing something different we’re apologizing for those messed up messages that we taught because we should’ve been teaching tolerance."
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Not long ago there was a food fight at Ralph Bunche High School. And Angel Hernandez is in trouble. He’s 18, a senior, and he’s not admitting anything happened. He’s slouched in his chair in a circle in a room whose walls are covered with positive messages: ‘Respect,’ ‘Listen,’ ‘Trust.’ His mom, Maria Ramirez, sits at his side. Also in the circle is the cafeteria worker Miss Mina, and she looks pretty ticked off. “Everybody starts throwing stuff,” she says. “I said excuse me, how old are you guys? You guys want to clean up my kitchen?”
Dionne Wilson's husband, a San Leandro police officer, was killed in the line of duty seven years ago, but she says it took her a long time to find a way to really heal.
“For many years, I carried around so much vengeance and hate. I realized at a certain point I had nothing left. I had no more tools. I engaged in a lot of self-destructive behavior. I tried to buy my way out of my grief; I tried to drink my way out for a short period. Thankfully, I didn’t take that too far. And I just didn’t have a way to move past being embroiled in the moment,” says Wilson.
Wilson initially thought the trial and conviction of her husband’s murderer would bring her some sort of comfort or closure.