Please provide how the number of suspensions and incidents have been reduced since the introduction of restorative justice into the district and the impact on recidivism.

Question#: 45


During the 2018–2019 school year, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) established the Restorative Justice Unit, within the  Office of Student and Family Serivces and Engagement (OSFSE). The Restorative Justice Unit was developed under the funding source of a grant award
in partnership with the RAND Corporation. After receiving information about the study, 43 schools volunteered to be a part of the Restorative Justice study; per the RAND study research protocol, schools were randomly designated as treatment schools (21 schools) and control schools (22 schools.) Additionally, there were 67 schools that the Restorative Justice Unit supported outside of the grant study to engage in the adoption of restorative practices and begin to outline their approach to full implementation of restorative practices.

Throughout the year, there were professional learning sessions facilitated by the director and two instructional specialists within the Restorative Justice Unit. These included summer salary days, school resource officer training, Service Employees International Union training specifically for bus drivers and paraeducators, de-escalation strategies training for school staff, instructional circles, creating safe spaces for students, and standard three-day restorative justice training.

Once a school begins to adopt Restorative Justice as a part of its culture, there is a range of steps taken implement the practice. The steps of implementation include methods that schools use to lead to the long-term survival (sustainability) and continued effectiveness. 

This process is not linear and each one does not have a crisp beginning or end and it can take 3-5 years to get to full implementation.  There are times when an organization will move among stages due to changes in staff, funding, leadership, or unsuccessful attempts at employing with high fidelity. There also may be instances in which a school is in more than one stage of implementation at the same time. For example, a school may begin community circles school-wide, while they are still engaged in professional learning around restorative circles as an alternative to punitive disciplinary responses. The following chart illustrates the the implementation stages.

The current three-year trend of suspension data within Grant Study Schools allows for the Restorative Justice Unit to coach and provide feedback in regards to identifying areas of success and areas of growth. Instructional specialists engage schools in data analysis around suspensions, office referrals, and chronic absenteeism.  Schools are then able to peel back the layers of the story represented within the data to determine next steps in professional learning and program implementation. Restorative justice schools continuously reflect on how they are building out investment of students, staff, and community, deepening relationships among the various stakeholders, and establishing the necessary supports and resources that are a part of restorative practices for when harm occurs. The following chart outlines the three-year data trends for Restorative Justice Grant Schools, which OSFSE staff utilizes as baseline data for school support.

The chart above illustrates that suspension reduction and recidivism data is not yet available for analysis within MCPS and the reason is two-fold. The first is that the Office of Shared Accountability has not yet released suspension rates for the 2019–2020 school year. This data has to be vetted in alignment to their standard data sharing protocols. Secondly, because the Restorative Justice Unit did not move into school-wide implementation of Restorative Justice within Grant Study Schools, we will be able to analyze suspension data to identify reduction and recidivism trends at the end of 2019–2020 school year.

In order to operationalize the work of Restorative Justice during the 2019–2020 school year thus far, Grant Treatment Schools have received regular training around the continuum of practices, have developed professional learning plans for staff, and have had consistent coaching and feedback cycles in collaboration with the Restorative Justice Instructional Specialists. Additionally, Grant Treatment Schools have received Tier 2 and 3 Restorative Justice training for staff to elevate alternative disciplinary practices in lieu of traditional punitive approaches.

The Restorative Justice Unit also has been broadening the scope of the work across the district, continuing to bring restorative justice training to paraeducators, bus drivers, and the staff at the Blair G. Ewing Center and the Alfred D. Noyes Children’s Center. The unit also is engaged
on several MCPS committees in regard to the district suspension policy, TSI Support, community engagement, and re-entry for adjudicated students.

Restorative Justice Grant Treatment schools are developing structures and protocols for data collection for the frequency of implementation of restorative practices within their community. This also will support schools in being purposeful and strategic in differentiating the professional learning sessions offered, the coaching and modeling needs for staff to refine and elevate their approach, and operationalizing the use of restorative practices in lieu of punitive discipline responses. Below is a testimonial from Laytonsville Elementary School, which demonstrates
the impact of a strategic implementation plan on the culture and climate of a school community:

Since we have implemented Restorative Justice practices -  

  • students seem more grounded
  • students seem more patient and understanding with each other. (ex., demonstrating empathy when someone’s dog died, mom was out of town, etc.)
  • students know each other better and understand each other (circles were big contributor to this)
  • students are more self-aware and have a group awareness (help each other out more)
  • students are learning stress techniques and are taking mindful moments
  • students feel they can approach and speak with their teachers more easily (circles help
    to create this feeling of community)
  • teachers are reflecting more on their approaches to behavior challenges - instead of just getting upset, they are thinking about how there must be a reason behind the behavior.