A 2015 report issued by the Vermont School Discipline Reform Coalition and Vermont Legal Aid, Kicked Out, presented data about the rates of suspension and expulsion in Vermont schools. Both suspension and expulsion rates are much higher for students of color and students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). In addition, rates of suspension, expulsion, use of restraint and referral to law enforcement vary widely across the state (even when comparing districts with similar student populations). The report closed with five recommendations for improving student outcomes and handling student discipline in less disruptive ways; providing ways for students to access their education even during suspension; improve attention to students’ civil rights; improve data collection.
Several Vermont districts are responding to the issues depicted in this report by pursuing restorative justice initiatives. Supported by the Community Justice Network and the Center for Restorative Justice, districts from Burlington to Bennington are in various stages of implementing restorative justice programs. These programs create options for promoting conflict resolution in schools, helping to avoid problems before they escalate. They also provide options for professional development for administrators and teaching staff. These programs promise students and teachers more time together learning, and less time with education disrupted by suspension.
NCTE members can learn more about these programs through
Center for Restorative Justice: http://www.bcrj.org/programs/
Leland and Gray Middle/High School program: http://www.lelandandgray.org/index.php/restorative-justice