(1) The general assembly hereby finds that:
(a) Conflicts and offenses arising during the school day interrupt learning, threaten school safety, and often lead to suspensions, expulsions, and an increase in the likelihood of a student dropping out of school;
(b) Students who drop out of high school face diminished job opportunities, lower lifetime earnings, and increased unemployment and more often require public assistance. They are more likely to participate in criminal activity, resulting in higher incarceration rates, and they face much greater challenges to becoming productive, contributing members of their communities.
(c) School conflicts can result in offenses that violate school rules and local laws and damage relationships among members of the school and surrounding community;
(d) Restorative justice, which requires the offender to accept responsibility and accountability for his or her actions, teaches conflict resolution, repairs the harm from the offense, reduces classroom disruptions, suspensions, expulsions, and consequent dropouts, promotes school safety, and enables victims, offenders, and community members to rebuild the community and restore relationships; and
(e) The general assembly has a vital interest in reducing classroom disruptions, suspensions, expulsions, and dropout rates and in assisting victims, reducing referrals to the justice system, and building safer, more cohesive school communities to promote learning.
(2)(a) Therefore, the general assembly supports and encourages the use of restorative justice as a school's first consideration to remediate offenses such as interpersonal conflicts, bullying, verbal and physical conflicts, theft, damage to property, class disruption, harassment and internet harassment, and attendance issues.
(b) The general assembly encourages each school district to implement training and education in the principles and practices of restorative justice to ensure that capable personnel and resources are available to successfully facilitate all steps of the restorative justice process.
(3) For purposes of this section, “restorative justice” means practices that emphasize repairing the harm to the victim and the school community caused by a student's misconduct. Restorative justice practices may include victim-initiated victim-offender conferences attended voluntarily by the victim, a victim advocate, the offender, school members, and supporters of the victim and the offender, which program provides an opportunity for the offender to accept responsibility for the harm caused to those affected by the act and to participate in setting consequences to repair the harm. Consequences recommended by the participants may include, but need not be limited to, apologies, community service, restitution, restoration, and counseling. The selected consequences shall be incorporated into an agreement that sets time limits for completion of the consequences and is signed by all participants.
(4) Each school district is encouraged to develop and utilize restorative justice practices that are part of the disciplinary program of each school in the district.
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