Cape school board members voted unanimously Aug. 22 to merge separate student codes of conduct into one document that reflects the district’s commitment to the restorative practices approach to discipline.
Superintendent Bob Fulton said the revised code is a more proactive way to deal with student behavior in a positive way.
“We’re going to work with students and families to improve behavior, and consequences we give them will not just be consequences of suspensions and detentions,” he said. “It’s going to be rebuilding relationships so different choices are made in future incidents. That’s what the goal of this is.”
The restorative practices guide replaces a disciplinary matrix of infractions and escalating consequences with a structured process that focuses on repairing harm done to people and relationships, and accountability rather than punishing offenders. The code also merges the elementary code with the middle and high school code.
The process includes developing a respect agreement for each class, resolving issues in class, conferencing, and circles that teach acceptable and appropriate behavior by using consequences that align with the offense.
Infractions are categorized into steps that guide teachers on strategies and interventions, and when administration needs to be involved.
Students are able to admit their infraction and seek ways to correct their behavior, either individually with a teacher or with other students, until a mutually agreed-upon resolution is reached. Consequences can include a verbal or written apology, community service or parent contact.
More serious infractions, such as unsafe driving or use of tobacco, carry consequences of in-school or out-of-school suspension. Severe infractions such as assault or terroristic threatening also require police notification.
Shields Elementary Assistant Principal Jennifer Leach said restorative practices make the disciplinary process more consistent.
“We’ve been doing restorative practices, but now it comes together nicely,” she said.