Danville school plans peer tribunals for minor infractions

Danville school plans peer tribunals for minor infractions

DANVILLE — Kenneth D. Bailey Academy officials are piloting a new intervention program aimed at getting students to take responsibility for their poor choices and make amends.

Under the program, students who commit infractions such as excessive tardies, loitering, showing disrespect and failing to serve detentions would be referred to the KDBA Peer Tribunal, which would hear each case and then determine the appropriate intervention.

"We think this will be a good alternative to the traditional school disciplinary measures for these cases ... and really make a difference," said Principal Tracy Cherry, who will present the program to Danville school board members today. "It's a restorative-justice approach. And when you involve students' peers — people they can relate to — you can have a lot of success in changing behaviors."

Students can be referred to the peer tribunal up to three times a school year for behaviors that don't pose an immediate danger to themselves or others or severely disrupt the learning environment. If they're referred, the students and their parents must agree to go before the panel, and students must accept responsibility for their actions and behaviors.

The peer tribunal — which will consist of student advisory members, administrators and other staff and convene bi-weekly — will hear a description of the infraction and the students' recollection of events. Students will be questioned about the events that occurred and be allowed to give a statement about their feelings, opinions and their intentions about their behavior moving forward.

The panel will excuse itself to discuss the information and determine an appropriate intervention, which could include making apologies, writing an essay, peer mediation, service tasks/job shadowing and life skills. When panelists return and inform the students of the intervention, they will explain why it's fair.

Students will sign an agreement saying they will complete the intervention within two weeks. If they don't, administrators will meet with them and their parents and proceed with disciplinary action.

The idea for the program came from school resource Officer Beth Damilano. A veteran in the Danville Police Department, she saw how effective the Peer Court restorative justice program has been in the community, and thought it could also be effective in the school setting, where she has worked the last couple of years.

Cherry said she, Damilano, assistant principal Mitzi Campbell and social worker Megan Mohr reviewed the program with Executive Director Katie Ostebur and then tweaked it for the school.

"It really gives the kids a sense of ownership and accountability for their behavior," Damilano said, adding that the majority of youth who go through Peer Court don't become re-offenders. "They also learn teamwork and discipline through the (community service) work they do to satisfy their peer-court requirements. And I've seen them take a lot of pride in that work."

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