Georgia is the latest in a series of states to mandate school discipline reforms that move away from zero tolerance and toward restorative justice.
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Senate Bill 367, adopted during this year’s legislative session, implements the recommendations of the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform, which sought policies to reduce the incarceration rate. Part of that includes reducing the number of kids in a pipeline to prison.
Since that pipeline often starts in school disciplinary hearings, lawmakers decided that the people in charge need proper training. The legislation, now law, requires the state board of education to set minimum qualifications for hearing officers and others in the tribunal process.
This is an interesting choice. It’s different from what we’ve seen in states like Michigan where the push has been to promote restorative practices within schools to forestall high-stakes disciplinary hearings altogether.
The actions of Atlanta lawmakers would seem to indicate that they think the “problem” lies in bias or unfairness within the disciplinary hearings themselves. I can’t claim to know the details of what’s been happening in Georgia lately; maybe there have been a spate of epidemic of unfair disciplinary hearings. But this law (unless it’s coupled with something else, and I can’t find evidence of that) does nothing to help students who are ending up in disciplinary hearings to actually avoid finding themselves in those hearings.