Instead of Suspensions, 6 Saint Paul Schools Try Restorative Circles

Excerpt from the Pioneer Press:

Nikki Staab was on vacation in October when a fight broke out in her usually well-mannered seventh-grade science class at Farnsworth Aerospace.

In a typical year, the teacher said, the disruption would have led to three-day suspensions for the boy and girl involved. Instead, back at school the following day, they listened for 90 minutes as their classmates asked questions and described how the altercation made them feel.

“It was incredibly powerful. It was really emotional,” Staab said. “After that, everything went back to normal.”

In four years of teaching, Staab has learned to kick out students for misbehavior only as a last resort. That’s because once they leave, she has no input over when and how they return.

In past years, whether the student came back 10 minutes or a week later, whatever wounds had been opened would fester, unaddressed by anyone else inside the classroom.

Not so this year.

The grades 5-8 upper campus of Farnsworth Aerospace, in the city’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood, is one of six schools that are a year into a three-year “restorative practices” pilot between St. Paul Public Schools and the St. Paul Federation of Teachers.

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