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NAACP seeks alternative discipline methods for schools

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

Hamilton County School officials are turning their attention to the number of suspensions seen in schools and they want them to go down. 

This week the Chattanooga NAACP Chapter invited a nationally recognized workshop to help teach new methods of discipline. Suspensions can happen for any number of reasons, it's important to note that not all offenses are violent. Students can be suspended for various rule violations like "not tucking in their shirt" or "being late to class."

The NAACP Chapter hopes to change this. Local teachers, counselors, and community leaders packed the four day workshop in hopes of learning new techniques. For once they were the ones raising hands and asking questions 

"What's at risk is the future of our young people," said Steven Korr, International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP)  Instructor. 

The local NAACP chapter, invited instructor Steven Korr. 

"We're looking at an alternative to address the issues of young African American males and females joining gangs and creating violence or violent acts. Especially the number of students in the Hamilton County School System, regardless of race who get into trouble at school and end up in the school to prison pipeline," said Jennifer Woods, Volunteer Chair of the NAACP Education Committee. 

NAACP recently criticized Brainerd High School for having 750 suspensions during the 2013-14 school year. The school had only 592 students attending at the time. School officials say tighter discipline has helped increase the school's graduation rate. While Hamilton County Schools have a zero tolerance policy, 
"Restorative Practices" is the idea of school counseling and problem solving first. 

"There is always room for improvement," said Woods. "I'm not saying everybody who got suspended didn't deserve it but lets look at an alternative... because when a child is not in school, he or she is not learning."

"We want to explore every possibility, suspension is punitive and counseling is more restorative. We want to be proactive and do things at the front end so we can keep our students in school," said Karen Glenn, STARS School Climate Director, Hamilton Co. Schools.

Karen Glenn says the Restorative practices method could be used in pilot classrooms first. Right now the idea is just in the talking phase.

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