This theme has to do with levels of trust and quality of relationships between youth and adults in school. There are a lot of negative relationships between youth and teachers and we need to change that. Students get sent out of class and suspended a lot. We get disciplined for a lot of things that could be avoided if better communication and more trust existed in the first place. Also, we are youth and we make mistakes. We need adults to help guide us when we make mistakes, not just punish us. There is A LOT of racism in the way discipline happens in schools too: nationally and here in New London, Black and Brown students get suspended and expelled at much higher rates than white students. We can’t build relationships without being honest about what gets in the way– racism, classism, and other biases that our majority-white, middle class teachers often hold.
Issues happening now
what this looks like in our schools:
Students just being suspended with no real guide through their actions; suspensions are step 1 in the school-to-prison-pipeline
Students continually getting in trouble; not enough staff taking time to talk to the student about what might be going on in their home life
In-school suspension is a waste of time when it could be a chance to build a relationship if designed differently
Teachers yelling, students rebelling.
Language is a real barrier to English Language Learner students feeling comfortable in school– not enough staff speak the languages that students are most comfortable in
A lot of time is spent pressing us about having headphones, or putting our heads down on our desk, or having our hoodie on. Why? What is the point of this?
Missing class time for dress code or other “violations” makes no sense; this is an example of “they care more about discipline than they do education”
Not getting the support you need to succeed– not all adults at school truly believe in us, which is wrong
When adults cross a line and are disrespectful, there’s nothing we can do about it, we have no way to hold them accountable; but we’re held accountable all the time
We’re told that a lot of staff have been trained in restorative justice but we don’t see restorative justice happening at the high school - why not?
What we want and neeD
We need a shift from: Culture of policing —> Culture of relationships; this shift needs to start from the top and includes training for staff and shifting resources
Invest in anti-racism, anti-bias training for all admin, teachers, and staff; our majority white, middle class school staff needs to unlearn biases that they have
Accountability for those admin, teachers, and staff who don’t want to change
Restorative justice, which would include:
Teachers leading circles in classrooms daily or once/week to build relationships and trust
Circles to resolve conflict between students or between students and teachers; Instead of in-school suspension, for example, you get a restorative circle
Stop giving excuses. Recruit and retain Black and Brown teachers and multilingual teachers. Build college and job pipelines so that youth from our community can go to college and come back to work here in our district
Shift resources so that classroom size can be reduced; fewer students in the class creates a better environment for everyone
Create opportunities for students’ perspective to be heard; often our side of the story is never heard or taken into account
We heard from teachers that they need a “Zen room” too; a safe space where teachers can de-stress during the day
Spend the first week or weeks of school focusing entirely on building relationships and trust, circles are a great tool for this; include opportunities for teachers and students to talk 1:1 to really get to know each other