A program called “Collaborative and Proactive Solutions,” addressing behavior problems at their core, has shown promise in some schools. Its founder, psychologist Ross Greene, says it helps schools deal constructively with kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities and anxiety disorders, and also kids who have experienced repeated trauma and other challenges. Teachers in one Washington State school district learned to deal with poor attitudes and poor choices by asking “What’s going on?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?”
A New York City program called “School Climate Reforms” represents an increasing trend that turns to restorative justice instead of punishment. In the case of an infraction, students participate in a community circle, peer mediation, collaborative negotiation or some other activity to build trust and confidence. And in Spokane County, Washington, community truancy boards work with students to address the root causes of truancy – with notable success. The goal these alternative discipline approaches: to keep kids in school, leading not just to higher education performance but better social outcomes.
Restorative justice initiatives have reduced both suspensions and incidents of in-school violence, and a UC Berkeley study shows that they also can help students assume greater responsibility and agency. But they require funding and training for all teachers and administrators. Even then, educators sometimes resist efforts to keep disruptive students in their classrooms.