TRENTON — New Jersey is offering a grant to one organization that will train educators and provide resources on restorative justice practices as part of a pilot program enacted by legislators and signed by the governor last year.
According to educational researchers, restorative justice programs are designed as an alternative to traditional school discipline methods of punish-and-suspend, focused instead on dispute resolution. Restorative justice is intended to lessen the negative educational impact of suspensions on students, a disproportionate number of whom are students of color.
“Rethinking student discipline is long overdue,” said acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan. “Restorative justice is a promising strategy that gives schools another tool for responding to student infractions. This program aims to not only encourage restorative practices in schools but to also emphasize the professional development needed to effectively implement these new strategies.”
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According to data collected by the Department of Education, 37,964 New Jersey students lost a total of 168,509 school days in the 2018-19 school year due to out-of-school suspensions. The suspension rate for Black students was three times that of white students.
Last year, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law requiring the DOE to establish a three-year Restorative Justice in Education pilot program, which will be funded with a $500,000 annual allocation.
Under the pilot program, the organization selected to receive the grant will provide training to 15 New Jersey school districts selected to implement the restorative justice practices next school year.
Eligible organizations have until March 11 to apply for the grant.
At the end of the pilot program, the commissioner will prepare a report on the implementation of the program, including recommendations on the feasibility of expanding it to other school districts.
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