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JCPS Expands Restorative Practices Training To Help Students Cope With Trauma

Engelhard Elementary, which enrolled in restorative practices training three years ago per JCPS Spoksperson Toni Konz-Tatman
Engelhard Elementary, which enrolled in restorative practices training three years ago per JCPS Spoksperson Toni Konz-Tatman

In an effort to help Jefferson County Public School students work through traumatic events, the school district is expanding its training program to better equip faculty and staff. The techniques, called "restorative practices," will provide new tools to address student trauma, which can be associated with health and behavioral issues in the classroom.

Restorative practices is a social science that studies how to strengthen relationships. Educators across the country have used it as a system to train all adults in a school, from teachers to bus drivers, on conflict resolution, peer mediation and other methods in order to punish fewer students and improve their behavior. JCPS is already using restorative practices at some of its schools; in 2016, the Jefferson County Board of Education approved around $3 million to train and support schools that implemented a new behavior model that included restorative practices. The staff at 29 JCPS schools have undergone the training to date. 

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said many students are reporting trauma and adverse childhood experiences, but training school faculty and staff in restorative practices could help students build relationships, cope with their trauma and resolve conflicts.

“We not only have to teach [students] those academic skills, but also those social and emotional learning skills to help them deal with a lot of the situations that they might have to deal with outside,” Pollio said. “We’re excited and proud and happy to see this continue on in our schools.”

JCPS spokesperson Toni Konz-Tatman said the district plans to train the faculty and staff at 20 more schools next summer. Those schools would be selected by school administrators, assistant superintendents and resource teachers from the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) behavior team. MTSS is a JCPS department focused on improving academics and behavior in the system, and resource teachers from the behavior team would train schools on restorative practices.

Twenty or more schools would be trained each summer, within six years, until all 169 schools in the district are trained to use restorative practices. Pollio said so far, the JCPS schools where staff have been trained in the techniques have shown positive results, as captured by a 2017-2018 report. That report noted that the number of behavior incidents decreased in many restorative practice schools when compared to the rest of the district, and restorative practice schools reported lower declines in student attendance rates compared to higher rates among other district schools.

Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together Co-President Reginald Barnes said his faith-based organization has been pushing for the expansion of JCPS’ restorative practices training since 2009. Barnes said restorative practices could improve the city by reducing the school-to-prison pipeline, and he expects other Kentucky schools will implement the program, too.

“We’ve had several cities come to Louisville to see how it works,” Barnes said. “We start with JCPS and we can see how it can just flourish into other cities, and perhaps even other districts, in the state of Kentucky.”

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.