Several members of the Louisville faith-based group Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together, or CLOUT, are continuing their push for changes to Jefferson County Public Schools’ discipline policy.
CLOUT supports replacing the district’s zero-tolerance policy, which mandates students be suspended for breaking certain rules. This policy disproportionately affects minority students, and the group points to research that says out-of-school punishments are ineffective. The issue has also been linked to the “School-to-Prison Pipeline.”
Instead, CLOUT favors restorative practices, which focus on using creative solutions to repair any damage done by misbehavior, then preventing it from happening again.
CLOUT attended Monday night’s school board meeting and criticized JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens for not supporting restorative practices. Co-president Chris Kolb says Hargens committed to financially supporting any school that wanted to implement the system, which would cost between $40,000-$80,000 per school, and he asked that the JCPS board now support restorative practices.
Over the past few months several schools have expressed interest in using restorative practices in some form and this month 14 schools attended a conference call to learn more about implementing the concept.
But Hargens says JCPS has persistently followed up with schools that have shown interest in using restorative practices and “we have not had a school that is interested in making the whole-school commitment and spending the time to be a whole-school pilot,” she says.
CLOUT is asking that the district pilot restorative practices in several schools, which would need buy-in from the entire school for sufficient results, he says. Further, Kolb argues there are several principals interested in implementing restorative practices to some degree and the district’s new discipline initiatives aren’t working.
Among the changes in JCPS to address the number of students receiving out-of-school punishments is the district’s cultural competency training, which all staff undergo, as well as the Student Response Teams that respond schools that have exhausted all other means when dealing with students with behavioral issues. Officials say SRTs include the main principals of restorative practices.