2017-08-10 / News

Schools gain new tools to guide troubled students

By Timothy Mucciante
View Newspapers correspondent

Dealing with troubled students has always been a difficult task for school administrators, but as of August 1 the Davison Community Schools has a new set of tools to help guide students back to the right path.

These tools are called restorative practices, and the Davison Community Schools Board of Education heard about these new tools at its meeting this past Monday. Holly Halabicky, executive director of Student Services, briefed the board on what restorative practices are and how they are used to benefit students whose poor choices do not necessarily need to lead to expulsion or suspension.

Halabicky told the school board that many times an out-of-school suspension or expulsion may impact whether or not a student graduates, “A student who is suspended just once as a ninth grader is twice as likely to be a high school dropout. Kids who are not in school cannot learn”

The new law gives school boards more options to work with students who get in trouble, except for major offenses like bringing a firearm to school. The law requires that school boards consider restorative practices before using suspension or expulsion.

“Restorative practices are a very large list of things, some of which we are already doing,” said Halabicky. This includes a student accepting responsibility for the harm caused and to participate in repairing that harm, as directed by the restorative practice team.

Restorative actions by the student may also include apologizing, restitution, community service, research about the impact of the student’s actions, among other things. The legislature did not mandate any specific restorative practices; those are up to the school district.

Halabicky used the example of a student who is caught smoking on school grounds. Currently in Davison Community Schools, there is a mandatory nine-day suspension for this offense, but under the new law, the school district could use restorative practices to help the student take responsibility for his action and still stay in school. The restorative action team might have the student do research into the consequences of smoking, do community service and/or meet with community members who have lung cancer because of smoking.

“Rather than have the student out of school for nine days, left home and unattended, and probably smoking more while they are at home, because they probably did not enroll in a smoking cessation program during that nine days, with restorative practices we can keep them in school while still having them realize the consequences of their actions,” added Halabicky. “The big idea here is repairing the harm and rebuilding the relationships.”

After Halabicky’s presentation, Superintendent Eric Lieske said “Our staff has really set the stage for what positive behavior support initiatives look like,” with staff working with community businesses to reinforce students’ positive behavior outside of school. Lieske added, “Our administrators have done a lot of restorative practices already. It’s all about the kids.”

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