NAACP looking for more restorative justice in schools - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

NAACP looking for more restorative justice in schools

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Is there a difference between misbehavior and crime in schools? A local group says in way too many Tennessee Valley schools, what used to be counted as childish defiance, gets labeled as criminality and it's creating a pipeline to prison.

The idea behind the prison pipeline is certain behavioral policies in place rout certain children out of class and into the juvenile justice system. Community members are trying to severe that tie.

It was a packed house at the NAACP Town Hall meeting Tuesday afternoon as they discussed why this pipeline exists and how it can be remedied. They discussed the reasons why kids are acting out in schools, and what can be done to help kids once they've made mistakes. They're hoping they can start young to steer kids in the right direction, even after they've made mistakes in the judicial system.

"Five African American girls to one Caucasian girl find themselves suspended. Three African American boy to one Caucasian boy find themselves in the judicial system," said Dr. Elenora Woods. "They get in trouble. The School Resource Officer comes in and escorts them downtown and now they've got a criminal charge on their record."

They are calling it the pipeline to prison and the NAACP wants the so called fast track from school to a cell, slowed down.

However, they say there isn't just one problem to pinpoint why the kids are acting out to begin with.

"I think it's a combination. There's a whole plethora of things we need to throw into the pot," said Woods. "One is poverty. One is, is there something at home that the child is missing? The environment itself, crimes rates have risen in the African American community- they're toxic."

They are looking for ways to keep the kids on the right path. Samala Sinclair says there's a simple solution.

"There [are] not a lot of parents involved. The more parent involvement the better the child is gonna become," said Sinclair.

Those in attendance of the town hall meeting say restorative justice is something they want to see more of, to get their kids on the right track, after making mistakes.

"To keep them from going throughout life making the same mistakes," said Woods. "We're looking at ways we can prevent this from happening, but also what are some alternatives we can take to modify their behaviors. What are courses they can take to better their lives."

Dr. Woods said they hope to help some of the students get their records wiped clean with restorative justice programs, so they may continue on down the right path with a clean slate.

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