99: Rethinking School Discipline Part 1

Maggie Davis, ASTHO’s Director of State Health Policy, provides an overview of a new ASTHO report about restorative justice in schools; Annie Evans, a senior analyst of disability integration and preparedness at ASTHO, marks the first anniversary of...

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Maggie Davis, ASTHO’s Director of State Health Policy, provides an overview of a new ASTHO report about restorative justice in schools; Annie Evans, a senior analyst of disability integration and preparedness at ASTHO, marks the first anniversary of a program that sent disability experts to help several jurisdictions better serve people living with disabilities; and an ASTHO blog article examines two top policy issues to watch in 2022, health equity and rural health, while another rounds up the top online resources of 2021.

ASTHO Reports: Restorative Justice in Schools – An Upstream Approach for Addressing Inequities in the Risk of Incarceration

ASTHO Blog Article: ASTHO Policy Watch – Health Equity and Rural Health

ASTHO Blog Article: ASTHO’s Most Used Resources of 2021

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Tuesday, January 18th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson. 
Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. 

Adverse childhood experiences are a growing concern and focus for people in public health. Like so many other factors, school discipline—if it involves suspension or expulsion—is one of those events that can increase a student's risk for arrest. 

ASTHO's Maggie Davis helped write a new report about restorative justice in schools. She tells us what that is and gives us an overview of the new report in today's morning conversation.
Define restorative justice, and then tell us its value when it comes to keeping kids out of the system. 

So, restorative justice as a general term is an idea of really, instead of punitive actions, to bring together the people that were both the perpetrator and the person harmed in an interaction to try and kind of get to the human understanding element and reach a level of forgiveness or understanding rather than assigning blame or punishment. 

This can happen both in the criminal justice context—so, there are restorative justice practices used in lieu of the criminal justice system—but this particular report, we're focusing on the use of restorative justice practices in the school discipline context. So, instead of punitive school discipline policies, which might exclude a child from the classroom in the form of a suspension or an expulsion, it would really focus on really teaching a student how to understand the impact of their actions and really work at kind of restorative and corrective behavior and collaboration rather than punishment. 
You've touched on the fact that there is a new report available for people to download right now—and that link is in the show notes. 
What will readers learn from the resource? What does it have in it that they would like to know, that they ought to know?

This resource will provide a overview of restorative justice in the education and school system, as well as a survey of current state and territorial laws related to the use of restorative justice in K–12 schools. 

Let's talk about a few of those highlights. 
Are there any policies that states or territories have enacted that you think other ASTHO members might want to pay attention to? 

Yeah, so, in the report we highlight three states in particular that had some interesting uses of restorative justice or interesting models, one of which was Colorado. So, Colorado actually created an overall restorative justice coordinating council; and this council oversees restorative justice policies in practices and provides education and training for both—education as well as the criminal justice space. So, they really consolidated restorative justice efforts throughout the state. 
Another state that had a unique program that we highlighted was Maryland. So, Maryland's public school system has a long history of using restorative justice approaches in their school discipline. This actually started in Baltimore city public schools in the late 1990s; and the kind of use of the program in Baltimore city schools became more widely accepted and actually grew into being a statewide program in 2019 to really encourage the use of restorative justice as a way to correct, you know, student misbehavior, than a punishment approach such as a expulsion or suspension. 

Does the report make any comments or share any information about success with this sort of approach? 

So, at this time, the use of restorative justice in the education setting is still being studied. This is what we would call a promising practice—we're still trying to get a sense of what the long range effects are—but we think it's a really promising effort to help make sure that we both keep children in school in a classroom environment, but also use this context to teach them better conflict management skills that will be better for them overall in the long run in life. 

ASTHO's Robin Matthies joins us tomorrow to tell us why the report is a must read. 
You can get a head start by downloading your own copy using the link in the show notes. 

It's been a year since ASTHO sent several disability and preparedness specialists to help some states and territories with their work on behalf of people living with disabilities. 
Annie Evans is a senior analyst of disability integration and preparedness at ASTHO. 

We had a lot of really positive feedback from participating jurisdictions; so, supervisors of specialists and state health officials have expressed appreciation for this program. 
You know, a lot of health agencies really needed an extra pair of hands over the last year—so, responding to both COVID-19 and other concurrent emergencies like hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods that we've seen have really kept people very busy. So, they were really grateful for the expertise that the specialists provided, and we've even had requests for extension and expansion of the program. 

The program, funded by the CDC, has been extended into the summer. 

Also today: health equity and rural health are among ASTHO's top 10 policy issues to watch in the new year. A blog article reviews these two topics with links to more information in a pair of new policy briefs. 
We have the article for you in the show notes. 

Finally this morning, ASTHO's top 12 list of the most used resources of 2021 includes a summit on equity in public health leadership. There's also a letter from CEO Mike Fraser about showing gratitude to the nation's public health workers. 
All 12 resources are still available online. There's a link connecting you to those resources in the show notes. 

That'll do it for today's report. 

Make sure to follow us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. You can also listen on Alexa or Google assistant. 
If you have time, we'd be grateful if you could leave us a rating and a review. 

Be sure to join us again tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information. 
I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day. 

Annie Evans MPH

Senior Analyst, Preparedness, ASTHO

Maggie Davis JD MA PMP

Director, State Health Policy, ASTHO