Fresno Unified approves Restorative Justice program

FRESNO, Calif.

Fresno Unified students with Project Success are celebrating a major victory.

Cesar Rodriguez said, "I thought it was a great thing for the youth that has been involved in this for the long haul."

After three years of working with the district -- members of the youth advocacy group "Students United to Create A Climate of Engagement, Support and Safety" -- got the outcome they were looking for.

Fresno Unified School Board Member Carol Mills said, "This board hereby adopts this resolution to create and implement a school discipline framework of restorative practices."

On Wednesday, the Fresno Unified School Board voted to implement Restorative Justice. A program increasingly offered in schools to replace Zero Tolerance policies like suspensions and expulsions for non-violent disciplinary cases.

Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson said, "We're going to put a half million dollars into our upcoming budget to go bigger and target certain parts of our district to develop restorative practices in real practice, on a much larger scale more than we currently do."

This after research found the old disciplinary measures are being overused in middle and high schools -- and those suspended even once in the 9th grade are two times more likely to drop out.

Maricela Hernandez said, "When we did our research in our focus groups we found students didn't feel listened to. To give them a voice and say yes, I did a bad thing, but I'm not a bad person."

Project success will now work with the district to come up with the specifics of the plan -- but members tell ABC30 - the policies will emphasize interactions between students and teachers to repair relationships and help students learn from their mistakes.

Rodriguez said, "It's really the only way we can focus on the human element of these conflicts and issues."

Keeping kids in class and on track to graduate.

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