April 9, 2019
Commissioner Van Henri White
131 W. Broad Street
Rochester, NY 14614
Dear Commissioner White:
I am writing to you on behalf of Empire Justice Center to ask that the Rochester City School District (RCSD) maintains full funding and support for the work of the Roc Restorative Team. I am currently conducting a collaborative program study on Restorative Practices in RCSD with the Roc Restorative Team and Partners in Restorative Initiatives, and have first-hand knowledge of the power and the outcomes of this work in creating a positive school environment. From that perspective, I can affirm that maintaining the utilization of Restorative Practices at RCSD will provide a vital benefit to the entire school community. Indeed, without support for this team, the new Restorative Code of Conduct will be severely undermined. The new code of conduct has, in just a few years, helped leverage significantly higher academic outcomes, helped address the school to prison pipeline, and achieved safer school environments.
Restorative Practices aim to create school communities rooted in empathy. Creating a positive school climate also creates a safer environment for students and staff. Modeling and teaching core life skills such as pursuing accountability and repairing harm is meaningful and life changing for general education students, special education students, parents, and staff alike. But this work can only be done with continued budgetary support for the Roc Restorative Team.
Specifically, we have documented the impact of implementing Restorative Practices through a nearly 47% reduction of Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting (VADIR) events between the 2015-16 school year and the 2017-18 year. Positive school climates equal safer schools for all, and Restorative Practices give school communities the tools to achieve both.
Furthermore, by keeping more students in safer school more often, Restorative Practices have also improved academic outcomes. Two years into implementing the new Code of Conduct in 2017-18, students with at least one prior suspension failed almost 2,000 fewer classes. By training district staff in Restorative Practices, the Roc Restorative Team helps students who are at the greatest risk of entering the School-to-Prison Pipeline and is leveraging better outcomes for students.
To continue to achieve these positive outcomes for our school community, Empire Justice Center urges the Rochester City School District to maintain its commitment to this work and to the Roc Restorative Team.
Sujata Ramaiah, J.D.
Empire Justice Center