March 10, 2016 - In This Issue:

We're excited to tell you about our new program that helps students move through the "public" parts of school safely and with fewer incidents, based on a foundation of caring and supportive relationships with adults in the building, and the design and use of fair, equitable discipline. We also want to share a summary report from WestEd on how schools throughout the country are implementing restorative justice, and how our newest book helps schools put restorative justice into practice. And we have updates from some conferences and our work in the field.

Happy spring!
Lucy Patton
Engage! Newsletter Editor

Safer Hallways, More Engaged Students
A new program from Engaging Schools
You know how conflicts and negative encounters flare up in hallways, the cafeteria, locker rooms, and other "public" spaces in your school. Key to addressing the problem is having a specific set of strategies and practices for what happens in those spaces. Engaging Schools has developed this into a program called Safe Public Spaces. Based on a commitment to fostering caring and supportive relationships and the use of fair, consistent, and equitable interventions, the program trains all staff in the school and provides follow-up coaching for those with deeper roles. Strategies include staff members supervising known "hot spots", teachers meeting and greeting students at their classroom doors, all staff members' use of de-escalation skills to defuse behavior problems before they get out of hand, and the organization of physical space so that it invites positive interactions and encourages a smooth flow of students throughout the school.
In conjunction with the American Institutes for Research (a non-profit), Engaging Schools recently received a federal grant from the National Institute of Justice to conduct research on the effectiveness of Safe Public Spaces. The study will take place over two years and will involve 24 New York City middle schools.

How are U.S. schools implementing restorative justice? A new report covers successes and challenges. 

The WestEd Justice & Prevention  Research Center recently published a report on the state of restorative justice in US schools, with summary findings from experts including Engaging Schools' Carol Miller Lieber.

Current methods of responding to student offenses in schools are often not effective, and may even be Austin advisorybackfiring. Many experts support the use of restorative justice, an approach to discipline that focuses on repairing harm and restoring relationships, rather than simply punishing the perpetrator.

This new report describes the promise of restorative justice in improving relationships and the overall school environment, and summarizes the findings from interviews with over 40 nationally recognized RJ leaders. See WestEd's page here, where the report can be downloaded in PDF. A few of the key findings:
  • For restorative justice to be most successful, a whole-school, integrated approach is best.
  • Strong leadership from the principal is very important, but buy-in from teachers, students, and families provides sustainability when leaders change.
  • Implementing restorative justice is not just about reducing suspensions and expulsions. It's also about providing robust student support.
    The eight gears that make the model work
For school leaders who want to explore implementing restorative practices, our newest publication, Shifting Gears: Recalibrating Schoolwide Discipline and Student Support presents a comprehensive, research-based approach to building a safe, respectful, and welcoming school culture and climate. It advocates that school staff build a foundation of mutual trust, respect, and cultural competence to establish more personalized and positive relationships with students as a fundamental means of addressing schoolwide discipline. 
Conferences and work in the field

                        It's conference season!

Engaging Schools is often called upon to share its expertise in transforming school climate and culture with educators. Larry Dieringer, our executive director, participated in a panel at the American Association of School Administrators national conference in Phoenix in February. Entitled "Shifting to More Equitable and Restorative District-wide Discipline", the panel also included a deputy chief from the US Dept. of Justice and the superintendents of Broward County (FL) Public Schools and Syracuse (NY) City Schools. A few weeks later, Larry facilitated an interactive workshop for 75 school leaders called "Recalibrating School Discipline and Student Support" at the annual National Association of Secondary School Principals conference in Orlando.
We'll be in our back yard for the National School Boards Association annual conference in Boston on April 9. Larry will partner with Sharon Contreras, the superintendent of the Syracuse City School District, to share some of what has been learned from the multi-year effort there to transform the district's approach to discipline and student support, including the challenges and opportunities of implementing the new Syra cuse City School District Code of Conduct, Character and Support.

In late January some of our Engaging Schools Professional Services
staff members were in Syracuse for ongoing Engaged Classrooms and other work at middle and high schools in the district . Back row (left to right): Sarah Bialek, Michele Tissiere, Lisa Cureton. Front row (left to right): Carol Miller Lieber, MJ Austin.

                             Please Support Engaging Schools! 

Engaging Schools is a nonprofit organization that collaborates with middle and high school educators to create schoolwide communities of learning that integrate academics with social and emotional development. We provide professional learning and publications for instructional practice, classroom management, discipline and student support, postsecondary readiness, and advisory programs - all grounded in the values of equity, community, and democracy. The result: engaging schools where each and every student succeeds and makes positive contributions in school, work, and life.  

We rely on tax-deductible donations from you and others to develop our programs and resources and help us reach more teachers, schools, and young people. Please support our work with a gift today. Thanks!