Metro Schools Work To Close The Discipline Gap

Posted: 7:19 PM, Oct 13, 2016
Updated: 2016-10-14 00:33:01Z

It's a struggle that seen all around the country and in Nashville; Students walking the halls are not disciplined the same. 

"Students of color are suspended at a much higher rate than other students," Shuler Pelham, executive principal at Hillsboro High School, said. 

It's called the "discipline gap" and at Hillsboro High School and other metro schools, they're doing their best to close that gap through restorative practices using the PASSAGE (Positive and Safe Schools Advancing Greater Equity) Initiative. 

"The tempting thing to do is to say, 'they need to change.' The reality is that we can't change other people, we can only change ourselves," Pelham explained. 

Metro Schools has worked with teachers to institute a new culture in the classroom and in the hallways, focusing on listening and having an adult conversation with the students rather than assigning blame right off the bat. 

"We've tried to establish a culture of: you're not in trouble, this is a problem, how can we fix it?" Pam Richardson, a teacher at Hillsboro High School since 1987, explained. 

During Richardson's time in the classroom, she's seen the evolution of discipline, and after seeing the restorative practices in action, she believes the school is truly changing for the better. 

"This discipline process has allowed for students to feel that they are valued in the process, that they are part of the solution rather than the problem," Richardson said. 

Students at Hillsboro High School agreed. "They're not just yelling at you for no reason, they're talking to you," Davon Bowers, a sophomore, said. 

"It makes me feel like an adult," Bailey Fann, also a sophomore, said of the new discipline practices. "It feels like they can trust me." 

The results speak for themselves. In the first quarter of the last school year, 93 students were suspended from Hillsboro High School, but in the first quarter this year, after the implementation of the new program, only 13 students were suspended. 

Metro Schools was recently awarded a $250,000 grant from the Annenberg Institute and the Schott Foundation for Public Education which they hope can help continue to fund programs that will support a culture change, helping students both inside the classroom and in life.