Date of Degree

9-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Criminal Justice

Advisor

Richard E. Ocejo

Committee Members

Teresa A. Booker

Roddrick Colvin

David Fletcher

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Keywords

school climate, restorative practice, zero tolerance, implementation, evaluation

Abstract

Given that punitive discipline practices have disproportionately impacted its poor students of color, New York City is committed to transforming school discipline and improving school climate by implementing restorative justice as an alternative. This study is an evaluation of the restorative justice pilot program funded by the New York City Council and managed by the New York City Department of Education where key stakeholders including officials at the Department of Education, school administrators, educators, school staff, and community organizations are involved in the implementation of restorative justice in schools with high suspension rates. Data was collected through interviews, observations of sites involved in the program, and review of relevant documents and information. Organizational change is complex, and this study offered participants an invitation to share the accomplishments and challenges experienced throughout the shift away from punitive exclusionary practices to more restorative approaches. Key stakeholders share what has worked and what has not in their efforts to improve school climate, culture, and discipline by implementing more holistic, student-centered restorative practices. In this dissertation, I argue specifically that simply focusing on restorative rhetoric and practices without looking at the inherent biases and power dynamics that exist in schools serving poor students of color will not work. The information presented here can be helpful for those interested in moving away from punitive, exclusionary discipline toward restorative practices that focus on building community and resolving conflict in inclusive, peaceful, and healing ways. Furthermore, this study adds to the existing body of literature on the use of restorative justice in schools.

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