PRESS RELEASE: Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Restorative Justice Project

coneyHere’s Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Press Release announcing their Restorative Justice Project. We’re honored to be working with them at the Rachel Carson High School for Coastal Studies in Coney Island.

Brooklyn Community Foundation Funds Restorative Justice Programs in 4 Brooklyn Schools to Reduce Suspensions and Arrests: 

Nonprofits to Partner with Schools for 4-Year Pilot Initiative in Collaboration with NYC DOE and Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline

October 15, 2015 (Brooklyn, NY) – Today, Brooklyn Community Foundation announces grants to four expert restorative justice providers to launch full-time, in-school programs in four Brooklyn public schools beginning this fall, via the new Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project.

The Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project is led by Brooklyn Community Foundation in partnership with the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) and Mayor de Blasio’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline with the goal of creating a sustainable and racially just model for school-based disciplinary reform that can be scaled across the New York City school system.

Grants are awarded to New York Peace Institute, Good Shepherd Services, Partnership with Children, and Sweet River Consulting. The nonprofit organizations will each partner with a Brooklyn middle or high school chosen by NYC DOE in consultation with the Mayor’s Leadership Team to begin implementing comprehensive school-wide alternatives to punitive disciplinary methods this fall. Each program is receiving $100,000 for this first year. The Foundation has committed four years of funding for the Project through Invest in Youth, its cornerstone initiative to improve opportunities and outcomes for vulnerable young people in Brooklyn.

“We want to create a new model for school discipline that imparts value and agency to all students, and we are proud to have such esteemed and accomplished partners join this effort,” said Brooklyn Community Foundation CEO Cecilia Clarke. “Suspensions and in school arrests are often young people’s first brush with the criminal justice system. First and foremost, our schools should be safe and supportive environments for all students so that they can learn and thrive.”

Restorative justice practices empower all affected by a harmful incident to decide collectively how to repair harm, restore trust, and build a sense of community. In school districts in Oakland, Denver, and West Philadelphia, restorative justice programs have demonstrated success in reducing suspensions, arrests, and overall incidents of violence, as well as improving student attendance and graduation rates. The Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project will also focus on addressing disciplinary disparities affecting students of color and students with special needs, who represent the majority of in-school suspensions and arrests.

“Students are most successful when they feel safe and supported in schools,” said Lois Herrera, CEO of the Office of Safety and Youth Development at the NYC DOE. “The DOE has led the way in enacting critical school climate reforms that emphasize restorative practices, de-escalation and conflict resolution. We are proud to build on these reforms and move forward to further reduce suspensions and ensure a respectful and safe environment for all students.”

“New York City has been at the forefront of using innovative solutions to generate public safety; our schools should be no exception,” added Jordan Stockdale, Program Director of School Climate Initiatives at the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. “Through this partnership, our city is giving teachers and principals the tools they need to reduce the likelihood of serious conflicts occurring in schools. These measures will ensure the safety and academic success of our city’s children in more supportive, inclusive learning environments.”

The four community-based nonprofit organizations were selected through a competitive RFP process this summer and were matched by the Foundation with schools previously selected by the NYC DOE. The partnering organizations and schools are:

  • New York Peace Institute match with the Rachel Carson High School for Coastal Studies in Coney Island. New York Peace Institute is one of the nation’s largest community mediation services, with expertise in special education mediation. They have previously partnered with the Department of Probation, the New York City Department of Education, NYPD and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s offices.
  • Good Shepherd Services (GSS) and the School for Democracy and Leadership in East Flatbush. GSS is a leading New York City youth and family development agency with over 85 programs serving more than 30,000 children, youth, and families in under-resourced communities.
  • Partnership with Children and Ebbets Field Middle School in Crown Heights. Partnership with Children provides critical social and emotional support for the hardest-to-reach students and engages families in the school community so they can succeed in school, society and life. They have social workers in 32 public schools in all five boroughs and manage all community resources and support services in 12 community schools.
  • Sweet River Consulting and Science Skills Center High School in Downtown Brooklyn. The founders of Sweet River Consulting have over 10 years’ experience implementing school-wide restorative justice policies and programs, and providing youth programming and leadership development. Sweet River Consulting is supported by the Center for Nu Leadership.

The four organizations will train and support full-time Restorative Justice Coordinators in each school, who will then develop a school-wide strategic plan in collaboration with school leadership. Coordinators will oversee all program components, including community-building restorative circles, conflict response, student reentry, positive school climate, and school-wide learning groups on restorative practices. All organizations will work to ensure a racially just and culturally responsive lens to support students disproportionately impacted by punitive policies as well as address rights and responsibilities of special needs students. Recognizing the importance of student leadership in school culture, Coordinators will also create opportunities for students to lead restorative justice programming.

Schools and partner organizations will evaluate their efforts based on improvements in school culture and student self-esteem, and a reduction in conflict, violent infractions, suspensions and arrests. All participating schools and organizations will collaborate to share lessons learned and best practices, as well as develop benchmarks and evaluation tools.

“We are excited to partner with the Rachel Carson High School for Coastal Studies with the generous support of the Brooklyn Community Foundation,” said New York Peace Institute CEO Brad Heckman. “We will work every day with the school community to build a culture of peace and dialogue—a culture that will help students who commit acts of harm understand the impact of their actions and allow the school community to move forward together in the wake of harmful acts. We envision that this partnership will promote an even greater sense of community in the school, and will help disrupt the school to prison pipeline.”

“We are thrilled at the opportunity to partner with Brooklyn Community Foundation, the NYC Department of Education and the Mayor’s Office on this important initiative that empowers students and staff in our public schools,” says Good Shepherd Services Executive Director Sr. Paulette LoMonaco. “We currently use restorative justice practices in many of our Brooklyn justice programs and we look forward to extending these important practices, along with our strengths-based youth and family development framework, in additional settings.”

“We are delighted to be working with the Foundation, the Mayor’s Office, and NYC Department of Education on this critical initiative,” added Partnership with Children Executive Director Margaret Crotty. “Our approach to supporting students and schools depends on providing effective alternatives to traditional punitive disciplinary methods and engaging all stakeholders in a school community—so we look forward to working with, and learning from the other CBOs and schools in the program to further this work.”

“Sweet River Consulting is eager to partner with the Brooklyn Community Foundation, NYC Department of Education and the Mayor’s Office to push forward an educational agenda that promotes restorative practices,” said Co-Directors Whitney Richards-Calathes and Nyoka Acevedo. “We see restorative justice as a philosophy and practice that works to divest from traditional models of punishment, a method to work towards racial justice, and an avenue to create structures of shared power and accountability within schools.”

For more information on the Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project, visit http://www.brooklyncommunityfoundation.org/youth-justice.

About Brooklyn Community Foundation

Brooklyn Community Foundation is on a mission to spark lasting social change, mobilizing people, capital, and expertise for a fair and just Brooklyn. Since its founding in 2009, the Foundation and its donors have provided over $20 million in grants to more than 300 nonprofits throughout the borough, bolstering vital programs and services while responding to urgent community needs and opportunities. In 2014, following a six-month borough wide community engagement project, Brooklyn Insights, the Foundation unveiled a new strategic action plan focused on youth, neighborhood strength, nonprofit capacity, and racial justice. Learn more at www.BrooklynCommunityFoundation.org.

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