Special Report
School Climate & Safety

‘Restorative Justice’ Offers Alternative Discipline Approach

By Nirvi Shah — January 04, 2013 2 min read
Timote Vaka, 18, a senior at Ralph J. Bunche High School in Oakland, Calif., is participating in an anger-management program at the behest of the alternative school.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Timote Vaka was running out of second chances.

When he struck a member of a rival basketball team in October after he misinterpreted his opponent’s light shoulder bump for something more aggressive, he faced losing his spot on the team and being kicked out of Ralph J. Bunche High, an alternative school in Oakland, Calif.

Vaka, 18, was sent to Bunche High after an incident at his previous high school, also in Oakland. He’d been mistakenly accused of cutting class and was taken to an assistant principal’s office. “He was trying to call my Pops,” Vaka says. To stop the call, he ended up hitting the assistant principal.

That got him a ticket to Bunche, a school of last resort for students with discipline issues.

So when Vaka’s aggression emerged again at the basketball game and he faced losing a chance at being in school altogether, Bunche’s “restorative justice” teacher, Eric Butler, stepped in. At Bunche High, he had watched as Vaka pushed his grade point average to a 3.5 from less than 1.0 and put himself on a path to graduate this school year, maybe even with classmates at his previous school.

“He could have easily been suspended,” Butler says, but as for the opposing team, “none of the boys [wanted] him to be suspended.” And the one who was hit? “He needed an apology. He needed to know why.”

One More Chance

So Butler persuaded school administrators to give Vaka just one more chance.

Now, Butler is personally shepherding Vaka’s pledge to improve his behavior using restorative practices, an approach that holds students accountable and gets them to right a wrong.

Butler set up a meeting between the Bunche team and the Island High School in Alameda, Calif., that Vaka’s team played the night he lost his temper.

“We all got into a circle. We mixed up the players [from each team]. We went around talking about what we could have done instead of fighting,” Vaka says. He apologized to his teammates, the student he hit, and all of that student’s teammates. They watched a video of the shoulder bump that set Vaka off, and he realized his mistake.

“I took it the wrong way. I could have walked away,” Vaka says.

Then Butler required Vaka to take anger-management classes. The plan to repair harm Vaka has done included an in-person meeting with his parents. They discussed what happened at the basketball game, along with Vaka’s departures from campus to smoke, and what Vaka is doing to make that right and keep his place at Bunche.

“A lot of people think restorative is a quick fix. Sometimes it is,” Butler says. “More often, it’s not.”

Vaka says that had he been expelled from Bunche, “I wouldn’t be in school at all.”

See Also

Read a related Quality Counts story: Discipline Policies Shift With Views on What Works

Nor would he be addressing underlying anger and impulse issues, Butler says. Using a restorative-justice approach “left us with an opportunity to connect him with resources he otherwise would not have been connected to. We are being very intentional about the conversation,” he says.

And the anger-management classes and meeting with the opposing team already are having an effect, Vaka says.

“Before this happened, I wouldn’t think about my decision. When the incident happened, I wasn’t thinking before I hit the guy, the player,” but now, he says, it’s far more likely he would take a moment to assess the situation before acting.

Coverage of school climate and student behavior and engagement is supported in part by grants from the Atlantic Philanthropies, the NoVo Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, and the California Endowment.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
How Can Data-Driven Instructional Programming Promote Equity and Student Achievement?
By now, you’ve started the new school year and begun gathering new academic data on your learners from interim, summative, and perhaps even social and emotional learning (SEL) assessment sources. These data points help you
Content provided by ACT

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Schools Ban 'Squid Game' Costumes for Halloween
N.Y. school officials are telling parents the popular Netflix series has no place in schools, either as a costume or a game at recess.
Elizabeth Doran, syracuse.com
1 min read
Attendees dressed as characters from "Squid Game" pose during New York Comic Con at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, in New York.
Attendees dressed as characters from "Squid Game" pose during New York Comic Con at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, in New York.
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
School Climate & Safety Can Districts Legally Mandate Student Vaccines? No, Two New Lawsuits Claim
Two large California districts are being sued over policies requiring vaccinations for schoolchildren by the end of 2021.
5 min read
Diego Cervantes, 16, gets a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the First Baptist Church of Pasadena on May 14, 2021, in Pasadena, Calif.
Diego Cervantes, 16, gets a shot of the Pfizer vaccine at the First Baptist Church of Pasadena last spring in Pasadena, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center Higher Student Morale Linked to In-Person Instruction, Survey Shows
Educators see student morale rising since last spring, according to a new EdWeek Research Center survey.
4 min read
Second-grade students raise their hands during a math lesson with teacher Carlin Daniels at Pulaski Elementary School in Meriden, Conn., Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.
Second grade students raise their hands during a math lesson in Meriden, Conn., Sept. 30.
Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP
School Climate & Safety Law Against 'Disorderly Conduct' in Schools Led to Unfair Student Arrests, Judge Rules
The South Carolina ruling is a model for other states where students are still being arrested for minor incidents, an attorney said.
6 min read
Scales of justice and Gavel on wooden table.
Pattanaphong Khuankaew/iStock