Student Support and Accountability Circles
Preventative Circles & Reentry from Suspension/Expulsion Circles
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2001), children who do not finish high school are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested as adults. And 82% of adults who make up the prison population are high school drop outs. Besides criminal activity, many statistics are available in regard to how dropping out of high school negatively impacts future employability, poverty rates and community functioning. Though suspension/expulsion are the last steps on the disciplinary ladder, there are times when these last steps must be utilized. Unfortunately, according to at study published by the Journal of Counseling and Development (Spring 2007, 196, 196-203), ”removing children from school, through suspension or expulsion is more likely to cause a child to drop out of high school more than any other factor“ (Suhyun Suh, Jingyo Suh,& Irene Houston). Keeping students engaged in school following an expulsion or suspension has proven to be highly difficult.
Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership is collaborating with Estes Park R-3 School District to offer Student Support and Accountability Circles (SSACs). SSACs are designed to provide support and accountability to at-risk students through the use of the restorative principles of repair, restitution, reconciliation, reintegration, respect and responsibility. The circle is made up of 5-8 people who are invested in assisting a student in becoming successful in school and out, and include a core student, peer support student, school staff representative, two trained circle keepers and community members. Prior to the start of circle, an assets survey is conducted with the core student in order to help identify and select appropriate circle participants. Areas of focus include school functioning (grades, behavior, extracurricular activities, etc.), relationships (peers, family, friends, other adults, etc.), and self (health & wellness, drug/alcohol use, mental health, etc.). Weekly agreements are developed to assist the core student in setting goals, and each person in the circle commits to a contract item related to the topic of discussion that week.
The role of the circle is not a substitute for parenting or therapy. Instead circle members connect students with resources, provide accountability and act as source support and encouragement. SSACs range in length from one semester to a school year, and involve weekly one-hour meetings during the school day. As the core student progresses, the need for meetings may become less frequent.
Contact EVRJP to learn more about Student Support and Accountability Circles.