San Diego

School Climate Bill of Rights Approved by SDUSD

The second-largest school district in California took the next step toward implementing new policies that would keep misbehaving students in school rather than suspend or expel them.

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Trustees approved a framework regarding how students should be punished.

The district is defined, in part, as one focusing on healing, respect, support and general well-being of students and others in the community, according to the School Climate Bill of Rights.

Students, parents, and educators are given the right to be informed about resolving conflicts through restorative practices.

One goal is to keep students in school rather than to suspend or to expel them.

"It is not a simple apology. It is really holding people accountable, not just children, but adults alike," said Felicia Singleton, the Program Manager of the district's newly formed Department of Restorative Practices. “It's learning from their actions.”

Larissa Galeana, who helped write the Bill of Rights, said students should want to be in a school where they feel safe.

She worked as a circle facilitator at Crawford High School, where staff and administrators launched a pilot program.

A community-building circle brings students together to share, and to get to know each other.

"When you're part of a community and you feel supported and wanted, you are less likely to go and do something that is going to cause harm to that community," said Galeana.

Erik Hernandez was part of a similar pilot program at Hoover High School.

He understands there are critics who say this lets students get off too easily.

"It may be too soft to others, but it's helpful because you get to understand the other person's perspective as well," he said.

Lindsay Burningham, President of the San Diego Education Association, said when done correctly, it is something teachers can support.

"It needs appropriate resources, and that comes with money, it comes with time, it comes with training, professional development etc," Burningham said.

The right to comprehensive training is part of the Bill of Rights.

"We will be starting small because we want to make sure were doing it right and we don't want to overpromise and under-deliver," Singleton said.

The School Climate Bill of Rights was proposed by the Mid-City Community Advocacy Network in City Heights.

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