School Board Member Pleased With Consideration of Restorative Justice

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Nancy Proto

By Stefanie Jackson – Nancy Proto, a member of the Northampton County School Board, recently reacted to the school board’s unanimous approval of her request to form a committee that will research how other school divisions have implemented restorative discipline – an alternative to traditional school discipline methods such as suspension and other punishments.

“It is my experience that kids – even those with severe discipline problems – come from loving homes,” Proto said.

She is pleased that the school board will research alternative methods of helping students with behavioral issues, because punishments generally don’t work, she said.

According to research on discipline, “punishment is most effective for kids that need it the least,” Proto said during the discussion of her proposal at the June 27 school board meeting.

“I can tell you that punishment was pretty effective with my kids. My kids had a different kind of home. You know, we also had a lot of love, we had a lot of teaching, we had a lot of everything,” she said.

But that doesn’t mean kids with discipline problems don’t come from loving homes, she later clarified.

“Parents love and care about their kids and want what is best for them, but lack the skills, knowledge and resources to help them,” Proto said.

Ruby Payne is a popular speaker and educator who has written books and developed teacher training sessions on understanding how poverty affects students. Proto agrees with Payne that student behavior issues often stem from “a ‘poverty of resources,’ not a lack of love.”

Proto has acknowledged that sometimes in-school or out-of-school suspension is an appropriate consequence for student misbehavior. Restorative discipline would be implemented in Northampton schools to reduce the number of suspensions issued, not eliminate them, she said.

Data shows that in Northampton’s public schools, two and a half times as many students are suspended as compared to the state average, and a short-term suspension can last up to 10 days, or two weeks of instruction.

Chairman William Oakley said the new committee would be formed during the school board’s July 18 work session.

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