Giving Compass' Take:

• Parents at the Coachella Valley Unified School District worked to convince the district to allocate funding for restorative justice, but most of the money went unused. 

• How can philanthropy support the development and execution of restorative justice projects? How can parents ensure that districts respect their promises? 

• Learn more about restorative justice and students of color.

Restorative justice came to the Coachella Valley Unified School District when a few moms finally had enough of their kids coming home in tears after being bullied at school.

The parents vented their anger during a community meeting in 2015, describing the bullying issues at Bobby Duke Middle School, which is situated in one of the Southern California desert region’s poorest neighborhoods. It was during that meeting that Bobby Duke parent Sandra Ramirez first heard about restorative justice.

Restorative justice uses discussion circles and one-on-one mediations to address issues students are dealing with at school and in their daily lives. The practices are also used to resolve conflicts among students or between a teacher and a student; and to reintegrate students back into school after extended absences.

For the 2016-17 school year, Coachella Valley Unified’s school board allocated more than $300,000 to restorative justice, which was to cover training for teachers throughout the district and the hiring of four part-time restorative justice facilitators.

But a year later, the vast majority of the money set aside in the LCAP was never spent. No new hires were made and the teacher trainings didn’t happen.

District officials confirmed that the only money spent was just over $50,000 to cover stipends given to teachers who were tasked with leading restorative justice efforts at their schools.

The experiences of the Coachella parents are not unique. Interviews with parents, teachers and advocates in other California school districts, including San Diego Unified and Long Beach Unified, say district officials often make promises during LCAP hearings that they don’t end up keeping.

Read the full article about restoritive justice by David Washburn at EdSource.