“A restorative justice approach with our young people is the best way to achieve safe schools and communities,” Gascón told San Francisco Unified School District administrators, according to a news release. “We will not prosecute our way out of bullying and we will not suspend or expel our way to safe schools for our students.”
Gascón said evidence is increasingly showing that “zero tolerance” policies lead to increased truancy, dropping out, and delinquent behavior. Dropouts are more likely to become both victims and perpetrators of crime. In San Francisco, 94 percent of young homicide victims are high school dropouts, according to the DA’s office. In the next year, Gascón’s staff will work with the school district and other city partners “to roll out a new restorative justice model as part of the juvenile justice system,” according to the statement.
Earlier this year, new SFUSD Superintendent Richard Carranza said the “easy” response when students participate in name-calling or other behavior is to “suspend the student, send them away.”
But “what’s lost in that event is the teachable moment,” he said. Students should understand “what the consequences are of using words to hurt other students,” and they have a responsibility to make the other person feel better, he said.
That kind of idea is also shared by gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). Earlier this year, Ammiano introduced Assembly Bill 1729, which reaffirms that superintendents and school principals have the discretion to implement alternatives to suspension and expulsion, among other provisions.
“The bill is designed to correct the root causes of the pupil’s misbehavior, account for any individualized educational plans, and the age of the student,” a news release put out by Ammiano’s office in May states. “San Francisco Unified School District has started down the path of restorative practices, and have seen suspension rates decline under the new approach, and AB 1729 will support these efforts of alternative correction.” As of early July, the bill was making its way through the state Senate.
As many as 56 percent of teens report being cyber bullied, spokespeople for Gascón stated, and LGBT youth are targeted more than others.