Stopping the school to prison pipeline in Madison schools using restorative justice

Balancing Justice and Discipline

Hernandez is practicing restorative justice, which is encapsulated in Madison Metropolitan School District’s Behavior Education Plan. A 2017 report described the BEP, as it is known, as a “progressive and restorative approach to behavior and discipline that is immersed in teaching and learning, as opposed to zero tolerance policies relying on punishment and exclusionary practices to correct misbehavior.”

The BEP represents a district wide change in philosophy, one that was codified in 2013 and implemented in MMSD schools during that school year. Replacing a zero tolerance behavior policy, the BEP asks teachers and staff to proactively build relationships with students. When disruptions occur, teachers and staff are expected to use their rapport to determine why behavior expectations were not met, rather than reactively mete out punishments.

When consequences are necessary, staff look to the BEP’s “tiered response levels” to help match consequences to behavior transgressions. The BEP offers teachers and staff five possible responses to behavior infraction. Depending on the severity of the infaction, a tiered response guides teachers and staff to an appropriate action.