Students Use Theater to Improve Discipline Policies

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By Adalhi Montes / Voicewaves

A student yells a profanity at the teacher.

A student puts down another student.

Dilemmas like these usually result in a standardized punishment method, like suspension or a pink slip. The student inevitably spends some time at home and it is expected that they are also being lectured by their parents.

Take a second to imagine a different type of school environment. One where teachers and students come together to create a positive solution where both sides can benefit.

Well, students in Long Beach are one step closer to that reality.

Last week, as students rallied in front of the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) the school board passed a resolution to encourage teachers and administrators to use alternative discipline policies in schools.

The week before, students and community members came together to demonstrate what that could look like on a daily basis.

Facilitated by the community theatre group, the Cornerstone Theatre, Long Beach youth presented “Tangle”– a play that revolved around problem-solving and conflict resolution using Restorative Justice (RJ).

In restorative justice, the solution is found by talking things out. Offenders and those harmed come together to discuss the harm caused, how it can be repaired and how trust can be rebuilt.

After weeks of gathering stories from local youth, “Tangled” playwright Singrid Gilmore, wrote a play that took place in mythical “Kingdom High school” and told the story of “TJ”, a teenager whose problems at home are affecting his schoolwork.

As the play unfolds, TJ’s teacher sends him to a restorative justice specialist who works along with him and other students who are also facing similar problems. Together everyone involved sits and talks in a restorative justice circle to create a healing process.

The play enabled those in the community to see how a restorative justice circle works in the hopes that the method will become more popular in the district.

Currently Reid Continuation High School is the only high school in the city with a restorative Justice program. Advocates are working to implement the program next at Pal High school.



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