In order to address the school to prison pipeline, TDP is working to affect change in the school discipline policy and in how Restorative Practices is being implemented. We began in School Year 2016-17 by gathering diverse ideas and feedback on Baltimore’s current discipline practices from teachers and students. We used this feedback to push the school board to consider more radical changes to their discipline policy, and worked with district staff to strategize. Our collective research into how other cities across the US are handling unfair discipline practices convinced us that positive discipline and restorative practices are essential to any school district. Restorative Practices offers a way to proactively build relationships and a sense of community. While this isn’t a replacement for suspensions, it has the power to greatly reduce the need for suspensions and speaks to a great need that exists for there to be positive school culture.
Baltimore has attempted to reduce suspensions and create a progressive code of conduct that moves the district towards RP. There are some challenges in the change process however--there is a tendency to eliminate or reduce suspensions without adequate investment in RP training which leaves teachers without needed resources. In School Year 2017-18, we began work, with support from OSI, on videotaping RP classrooms and sharing these videos on our website. In School Year 2018-19, we are working with a dedicated group of TDP fellows who have formed a learning community around the question of how to get better at RP implementation, at the classroom, school and district level.