I’m proud to
say that Texas is on the leading edge of a national discussion regarding
effective and equitable discipline in our schools. School and district
administrators across Texas are now being offered training in Restorative
Discipline, an alternative to "zero tolerance" methods, through a partnership
that includes the Texas Education Agency and the Institute for Restorative
Justice and Restorative Dialogue at The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work.
Discipline is a prevention-oriented approach that fosters accountability and
amends-making to resolve school conflict such as bullying, truancy and
disruptive behavior. And at a recent national conference, our state’s work on
this front was spotlighted. Education representatives from other states who
attended the biannual National Conference on Restorative Justice –
organized by the National
Association of Community and Restorative Justice – learned
what TEA is doing to introduce this concept to our school districts and how
those districts that have implemented the approach are seeing significant
The reason for
taking this approach is simple. Studies reveal school suspensions correlate to
academic failure, including higher school dropout rates. Students are not in
position to learn if they are not in the classroom.
suspensions affect minority students disproportionally. In Texas,
African-American students comprise 13 percent of students but are, on average,
two times as likely to be suspended as white and Hispanic/Latino students.
TEA and the UT
Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue have launched
Restorative Discipline training sessions in 10 Education Service Centers across
Texas. These sessions provide training for school administrators, who will be
able to customize Restorative Discipline to their campuses, communities and
student bodies, and for Restorative Discipline coordinators, who will be in
charge of managing the successful implementation of the method on each campus,
training teachers and staffers and collecting data to evaluate results.
We remain in
the early stages of this statewide effort. However, the figures on those
campuses that have implemented the Restorative Discipline approach confirm it
can work – if implemented effectively. One San Antonio middle school
implemented Restorative Discipline in 2012. At that time, the school had some
of the highest disciplinary sanction rates in its district.
After the first
year of using the Restorative Discipline approach, there was an 87 percent drop
in off-campus suspensions and a 44 percent decrease in total suspensions. After
the second year, the trend of lowering suspensions continued, and the overall
school climate improvement was reflected in improved student performance.
continued partnership with the UT School of Social Work, I am confident that
expanding the concepts of Restorative Discipline with more districts across our
state will benefit students and educators. Texas is once again leading the way
with others ready to follow.
To learn more
about Restorative Discipline, visit the Institute for Restorative Justice and
Restorative Dialogue website at http://www.utexas.edu/research/cswr/rji/index.html.
Commissioner of Education Michael Williams
June 12, 2015