Restorative justice model being implemented throughout Salt Lake City School District

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The school-to-prison pipeline is a phenomena which takes kids out of the classroom for misbehavior, and can ultimately end with them in prison. Schools in the Salt Lake City School District are combating this issue by shifting the traditional discipline model to one of restorative justice. 

Students at Horizonte Instruction and Training Center take part in circles, which are just one of the ways the Horizonte community is practicing restorative justice. 

Students say they are embracing it. Chad Gunderson, a student at the school, says, “The circles are basically the only thing that help me, and the teachers have helped me, because I used to be the kid that just fought back in class…but here it’s just different. I’m more interacting in the groups and in class.”

For some students this means avoiding time spent out of the classroom. Delano Montoya is also a student at Horizonte Instruction and Training Center. He told ABC 4 News that earlier on the day we were there, he had gotten in trouble. “I could’ve been suspended…but doing the restorative justice, I don’t have to do peer court, I get to keep coming to school,” says Montoya. 

Jen Molloy is a doctoral candidate at the University of Utah College of Social Work. She has been consulting Horizonte Instruction and Training Center throughout their implementation of restorative justice. She explains, “It’s not a program, it’s really a paradigm or a mindset…Restorative justice is a different form of justice. It looks at this as being really needs based. So what are the needs in this situation?”

The school has been integrating these needs-based practices for years.  Molloy says restorative justice is different from traditional forms of discipline. It is rooted in healthy relationships, making sure everyone in the building works to build an unbiased learning environment, resolving conflicts, and repairing harm. In short, it keeps kids in the classroom. 

Molloy continues, “What happens when there is misbehavior? And seeing misbehavior as potentially, a symptom of something bigger, and not as a reason to push them away or exclude them, but really a reason to lean in and support them further.”

Joshua Bell is the Principal at Horizonte Instruction and Training Center, he says, “Implementing these restorative justice practices not just here, but throughout the Salt Lake City School District, is a means to try to break down that school-to-prison pipeline, “ he continues, “This past year alone…we’ve seen a significant decrease in recidivism….We’ve seen a significant increase in student attendance,” 

Principal Bell says,  “Students, given the opportunity to be able to self-advocate, and manage their own conduct, has empowered them to make right decisions.”

Principal Bell says,  “Students, given the opportunity to be able to self-advocate, and manage their own conduct, has empowered them to make right decisions.”

The students we spoke with agree that these changes in discipline have benefited them. Chad Gunderson adds, “I really feel like these things are helping and they’re really good for students who are failing and having troubles.” 

The restorative justice model is being implemented in all the schools throughout the Salt Lake City School District. To learn more about the Salt Lake City School District, click here. To learn more about restorative justice and specific programs being offered, go here. 
 

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