Restorative Justice in the Los Angeles Unified School District

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has adopted Restorative Justice as the district’s discipline policy. This program focuses on community building, repairing harm, and reintegrating students who have been suspended, truant, or expelled.

Restorative Justice was developed years ago and, as the name implies, was originally developed to help incarcerated people make amends for their misdeeds.

Although the intent of Restorative Justice has many good qualities, the program is a process—considering that LAUSD has planned to implement the program over a three-year period.

I should make my position clear regarding my association with the Los Angeles district. To begin, I have great admiration for large urban school districts. I consulted with the New York Board of Education working with schools in Harlem and Upper Manhattan for three years and have worked with a number of urban school districts across the nation.

My experiences with the Los Angeles Unified School Districts include teaching at three of their middle schools, two high schools, and using nine district high schools for my dissertation. I also served as athletic director working in central Los Angles with the districts most segregated “minority schools.” I also served as both a middle and high school counselor as well as working at the district’s central office. Needless to say, I have great admiration for the district.

Urban school districts need discipline assistance that is simple, easy to implement, works immediately, and reduces stress. Restorative Justice fails on all accounts.

The program is not simple because there are many facets to it. The program is a process and requires considerable learning and, therefore, is not easy to implement. Three years to implement is not immediate. Stress is not reduced when considering these factors.

In addition, the program is coercive in that it requires or mandates restitution in some form. No form of coercion will be successful because coercion creates counterwill, which in turn promotes stress.

Like so many programs by top-down administration, in a few years when Restorative Justice is supposed to be fully implemented, it will lose its appeal—as so many other mandated programs have. Take Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports (PBIS) for example. This PBIS Skinnerian approach was lauded by theorists. Now after a few years of implementation, it is resisted by many classroom teachers.

Visit an easy to implement, immediate, stress-free, and totally noncoercive discipline approach.