Restorative Justice in Schools

Each year in the District of Columbia, 5,200 students are suspended from school. However there is a growing recognition that suspension often exacerbates students’ disengagement from school and does little to address behavior issues. Access Youth has partnered with DCPS to develop and implement a program to provide early intervention to as an alternative to suspension in two high schools: Ballou and Washington Metropolitan. Our program targets this problem using family mediation to develop identify and address barriers to attendance.

In this program, Access Youth uses mediation to bring together the juvenile, their parent(s)/guardian(s) and, when applicable, other school personnel, to discuss the issues contributing to the student’s behavior issues, and develop a plan for addressing those issues and improving the student’s behavior, so they can avoid future suspensions and choose behaviors that will help them succeed in school. After the mediation session, Access Youth conducts follow-up sessions with the juvenile and their parent to monitor and support their success in upholding the mediation agreement.

The goals of the program are to:

  • Increase students’ positive behavior
  • Prevent them from experiencing further school suspensions
  • Enhance their school experience and academic performance
  • Reduce their likelihood of contact with the criminal justice system

The program currently operates at Anacostia, Ballou and Eastern high schools, where we are focused on determining what kinds of interventions are most effective at reducing suspensions and the behavior that leads to them, and improving pro-social behavior.