Written by Tech students, Tiffany Le and Mandee Lin, Spring 2018
The school-to-prison pipeline is a process of students going into prison for incidents at school or criminalization of minor behavior that can be handled at school. For instance, having numerous absences from school creates a gateway for students to be involved in the criminal justice system due to students getting exposure to activities that can influence them to do so. Not only that, students who are disadvantaged are also more likely to get involved with the school-to-prison pipeline. This means that their race, gender, and/or disabilities play a role in a student’s engagement with the criminal justice system. Most of the time, these arrests will impact the students’ lives negatively no matter what they were arrested for.
At Oakland Tech, the Restorative Justice (RJ) Program works to transform the school into a more vibrant and stronger community based on trust and respect. It aims to keep students from getting involved with the criminal justice system by having students talk about their thoughts and problems. By allowing students to express their thoughts, they are able to find the reason that is rooted within their issue and transform that factor. RJ allows students to correct their mistakes and learn from them. Additionally, it allows students to learn skills that help them become natural mediators.
Tech’s RJ coordinators Ms. Kusum and Coach Hart work to make every student feel safe at school. Having these ambitions in mind, both students and staffs are able to build stronger bonds with each other by understanding one another’s different backgrounds. The more that the students and staffs know each other, they are less likely to harm each other.
To work towards their goals, Ms. Kusum educates a Civic Engagement class to hone student’s abilities in mediating RJ circles. There are various types of circles that the Restorative Justice program maintains for a variety of different student experiences. Community-building circles and conflict mediation circles are some examples of circles that the RJ program commits to facilitating.
In addition to sustaining the circles at Tech, the RJ program also maintains an after-school event called “Talk About It Thursdays”. This is held every Thursday after school, allowing any students to voice what is currently on their mind. These assemblages are open to anyone who is interested and allows any student to be comfortable and associate with others who participate.