MADISON — At a time when the Madison school district is looking for ways to address the achievement gap, the YWCA Madison is hosting a Restorative Justice Youth Conference to promote local and national best practices like Restorative Justice as alternatives to zero-tolerance policies. This conference will discuss how Restorative Justice and youth leadership can be used to end school push-outs and reduce racial disparities within our education system through community-building efforts to promote youth organizing.
The YWCA Madison’s Restorative Justice Program looks at alternative ways to address disciplinary issues (rather than relying on suspension or expulsion) in order to reverse the School-to-Prison Pipeline and the achievement gap that disproportionately impact students of color. Restorative Justice follows a process where accountability, not punishment, is paramount. The goal is to understand the root cause of problems and work together to create a solution. Our vision includes keeping youth in school and out of the criminal justice system.
This program is working, as Pamela’s story shows (name has been changed). Pamela was getting in trouble at school. She was referred to a Restorative Justice Circle where along with her peers and teachers, the group learned that a big part of Pamela’s struggles came from friends she had made over the summer. This group was pressuring Pamela and she was having a hard time focusing on success in school. In Circle, the group brainstormed ideas including scheduling time with peers who were more supportive, focusing on volleyball, and meeting with the school social worker to define her goals. One month later, during her follow-up Circle, Pamela was thrilled to share with us all of her success. Pamela said, “The Restorative Justice Circle had helped me stay on track with my goals. I’ve been spending a lot more time with friends that support me. I’ve been going to study club on a regular basis.” Two quarters later, Pamela is still doing well in the classroom, building positive relationships with peers, and enjoying sports.
At the conference, youth will have an opportunity to share their experiences and strengthen their leadership potential by creating solutions to the problems they experience in schools. Youth workers, youth advocates, and Madison School Board members will have a chance to listen to the voices of our youth.
This event is a collaborative effort between YWCA Madison, Dignity in Schools Campaign, and youth organizations from the Madison area such as Freedom Inc., expresArte, and GSAFE, and many Dane County Middle and High Schools. The conference will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, August 28th & 29th, from 8:30am – 4:00pm at the YWCA Empowerment Center.
About the YWCA
YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. To fulfill this mission, the YWCA Madison:
· Advances racial and gender equity,
· Helps people find and keep jobs, and
· Works to end homelessness.
For more information, contact Rachel Krinsky at (608)257-1436, option 2 or at firstname.lastname@example.org