Reducing Suspensions With Restorative Practices and SWPBIS

March 6, 2014
Colored pencils next to a stack of books.

What's one way to guide a student toward positive behavior change? Discovering what the problem behavior is communicating, and then helping the student gain insight into that behavior.

The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is implementing approaches like this in an effort to reduce suspensions and improve the climate of all its schools.

To help this happen, the San Francisco Board of Education has established The Safe and Supportive Schools Policy, designed to help teachers, parents, support staff, and administrators aid students by using Restorative Practices (RP) and School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) for handling behavior issues.

A “disproportionate number of African-American students and students with disabilities in SFUSD are given office referrals,” says an SFUSD press release, and the resulting suspensions and expulsions lead to students losing valuable instructional time.

Yet SFUSD is already making improvements. Between the 2009–2010 and 2012–2013 school years, the district reduced suspensions by over 30 percent.

The new policy is designed to further empower teachers with classroom management tools they can use before or instead of referring a student out of the classroom—tools including professional development in:

  • De-escalation techniques
  • Relationship building
  • Communication skills
  • Working with students who have special needs
  • Working with students who have experienced trauma

Studies indicate that zero-tolerance policies and suspensions don’t help kids learn to behave, and can actually exacerbate behaviors by making kids feel alienated and rejected. To counter this, the district aims to roll out full implementation of RP and SWPBIS in all schools by 2017.

If you’re a Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Certified Instructor, our new Professional Development Series for Educators can give you tools for conducting sessions on Helping Educators Defuse Difficult Conversations and Proactive Strategies for Facing Escalating Situations Alone.

Not a Certified Instructor? Find out how Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training can help your school or district.

Read about Restorative Practices at the Horicon Van Brunt School in Wisconsin.
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