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Bill proposes using restorative practices in Pa. schools

Bill proposes using restorative practices in Pa. schools
Bill proposes using restorative practices in Pa. schools 02:11

HARRISBURG (KDKA) — When you think about balancing punishment with rehabilitation, the criminal justice system comes to mind. But similar conversations are happening in public schools. 

State Rep. Manny Guzman said he got an out-of-school suspension for ten days for throwing a paper ball at a bus driver, and while he said he "obviously deserved some consequences," he said that's ten days he was outside of the classroom and didn't learn much. 

He said he only got one suspension, but imagine getting five like that. 

"That's 50 days now outside of your academic career that you're spending outside of the classroom at home doing God knows what," Guzman said. 

That was then. Now in the very same school district, Anne Fisher with the Reading School District said, "They discuss what the issue was, what occurred, how to prevent it from happening and how it impacted everybody so they can have a healing relationship and move on and then get back to class, which is where we want students to be." 

That's called restorative practices. Guzman has introduced a bill that would spread it around the state. It would also create a centralized database so taxpayers can see how their school districts are doing in terms of student discipline, Guzman said.

"If you're a brown or Black student in the country, you're almost five times more likely to be suspended," Guzman said. 

He said neighboring states like New York and Maryland have a restorative practice model. 

So far, the bill has only Democratic co-sponsors. It would need some Republican support in the GOP-controlled Senate. Some opponents nationally have said restorative practices let offenders off too easily.

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