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Kalamazoo Public Schools sees decrease in suspensions and expulsions

BES Photos / flickr
A long table surrounded by red chairs in a school classroom.

Restorative discipline practices could be helping Kalamazoo’s public school district.

Kalamazoo Public Schools did not expel any kids during the 2017-2018 school year, and it had only 13 suspensions of more than 11 days.

For the past two years, the district has been implementing restorative discipline practices. Restorative practices can include behavioral interventions, classroom discussions about conflict resolution and peer mediation.

Before, KPS would just hand kids their punishment, for example, detention or suspension. But now, the district has students talking about the underlying causes of their behavioral issues, and officials say that's helped reduce suspensions and expulsions.

The district was averaging 66 exclusions – or suspensions that lasted between 11 and 179 days – or expulsions per year from 2010 to 2014. But during the 2017-2018 school year, the district had just 13 exclusions.

A big piece of the restorative discipline model the district has been phasing in is built on the idea of keeping students in school and teaching them resolution skills.

The district has been giving its teachers more professional development based around these ideas over the past four years, according to a school board presentation from last week.

The restorative practices also include dialogues about trauma and how it can relate to behavioral issues in school.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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