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Article updated: 2/3/2014 10:10 PM

U-46 to participate in national study on discipline

Officials says reviewing policies, alternatives part of process

By Madhu Krishnamurthy

Elgin Area School District U-46 is among 10 school districts selected to participate in a nationwide study about effective disciplinary alternatives to suspensions and expulsions, Superintendent Jose Torres told the school board Monday night.

"We've already received some input on our code of conduct," Torres said.

As part of the study, administrators will be reviewing the district's disciplinary policies and looking at alternative strategies to traditional discipline being tried out at school districts in other parts of the country.

"A lot of traditional discipline is based on compliance to rules," said Ronald Raglin, U-46 chief of equity and social justice and interim assistant superintendent for secondary education. "The new paradigm is on relationship-building. Teens do not rebel against rules, but (rather) against relationships (with schools, fellow students and adults)."

Some school districts have emphasized restorative justice tactics through peer courts where students act as judges and mete out punishment in the form of community service or writing letters of apology, and peace circles where the perpetrators are forced to look their victims in the eye and jointly work through issues, Raglin said.

"We're looking at all the research ... other places around the country that are looking at these other alternatives to discipline," Raglin said.

Raglin said disproportionate application of student discipline is a huge problem, and cultural barriers to understanding what constitutes defiance and disrespect in different cultures.

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