[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s California’s fourth largest school district, Fresno Unified has recently begun revamped efforts to address its high number of school dropouts. The district is using approaches that involve listening to different individuals in the community, including experts in education-related fields and students. Several ideas have been suggested as to the cause of the high dropout rate. One idea that surfaced through the increasing amount of dialogue is that current discipline policies in Fresno Unified need to be addressed. Critics believe that current Fresno Unified policies push out students and don’t provide them with the opportunity to learn from their mistakes in a way that does not hinder their academic achievement.

In order to provide students with the opportunity to be held accountable for their actions and have them learn from their experiences, supporters of restorative justice have proposed a switch from current discipline practices into a system that focuses on healing relationships.  This system asks why the incident happened and how can it can be prevented. It is different than simply finding out who was involved and dispensing out punishment without considering how effective the punishment will actually be, or whether it is deserved.

This type of system is known as restorative justice. By using several methods, advocates for restorative justice state that it aims to “restore” those affected by the incident and meet the needs that might have been created by the event. These methods vary but usually follow a theme of cooperative resolution and voluntary participation. Conferences between the individuals involved are quite common.

Restorative justice has actually been implemented in schools and in the juvenile justice system. The Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) states that it works on the principles of restorative justice and focuses on working with people affected by juvenile crime.

The program brings victims and offenders together to discuss what happened and allows the offender to take responsibility for his or her actions.  Each side is allowed to state the actions and how they can reach a solution to the problem.  Once both sides can agree upon a solution, they discuss how to carry it out and a time frame of when it can be completed.

[pullquote_left]The program brings victims and offenders together to discuss what happened and allows the offender to take responsibility for his or her actions.” [/pullquote_left]

VORP says they have seen success with their program and great response from participants in the program.  Noelle Nightingale, Executive Director of VORP, attributes some of the success to financial concerns and the need for alternatives.

“I think a lot of it has to do with economic times,” said Nightingale. “Budgets are pretty tight so people are a little bit more open to alternatives to what has currently been happening.”

Nightingale believes this to be one of the many factors as to why people take advantage of VORP. Noelle also stated that using VORP makes sense fiscally.

“They can’t just hire more probation officers,” Nightingale said. “They can’t just keep all the pods open in juvenile hall.”

The kNOw Youth Media
The kNOw works to support and equip young people with the journalism and advocacy skills they need to tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

In 2006, over 25 youth began participating in weekly after-school writing workshops where they congregated in the hallway of a two-story building in West Fresno and learned the essentials of creating media and telling their stories. The group evolved over the next five years and is now proudly recognized as The kNOw Youth Media.

Through our program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.

The kNOw began as a project of New America Media, which was the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. In 2018 The kNOw became a project of Youth Leadership Institute.

Related Posts