University of ArizonaNorton School of Family and Consumer Sciences

Shannon Snapp: Restorative justice works: Give it a chance

Every student has the right to learn in a school that is safe and equitable. Conflicts arise daily in schools, and historically schools have used a zero-tolerance approach to discipline students.

Zero tolerance results in automatic detention, suspension or expulsion for misbehavior , all practices that exclude students from school. On the surface, it may seem like zero-tolerance approaches are efficient and effective, but more than 20 years of research has shown the opposite. Violence has not disappeared from schools with zero-tolerance policies, nor have these policies led to less school disruption.

Schools with high rates of suspension and expulsion report lower, not higher, grades school-wide. And the use of exclusionary discipline increases the chance that youths will not graduate and instead may end up in the juvenile justice system, a process called the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

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