BUSD approves description for restorative justice coordinator

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At its Wednesday meeting, the Berkeley Unified School District unanimously approved a job description for a restorative justice coordinator for the district, allowing the search for a coordinator to begin.

Approval of the position comes after recent efforts by the district to introduce restorative justice practices in place of traditional discipline methods. The role of the restorative justice coordinator as outlined in the job description requires that the coordinator facilitate restorative interventions and provide restorative justice services and information to students and faculty.

Community members and students from Berkeley High School who attended the meeting expressed concerns about the description of the position. They urged the board to refine the description to include a requirement that the restorative justice coordinator be someone trained to deal with trauma, particularly in regards to cases of sexual harassment or assault.

BUSD student director Uma Nagarajan-Swenson supported this proposal, urging that the qualifications for the position be revised to include a requirement that the coordinator be trauma informed.

“The current job description includes nothing regarding levels of training especially about sexual harm and trauma, and this is definitely inadequate, Nagarajan-Swenson during the meeting. “I think it’s imperative that such complex difficult cases are really administered by professionals who are trauma informed or else the security and effectiveness of restorative justice is compromised.”

BUSD Director Karen Hemphill added that a restorative justice coordinator should also be equipped to adequately respond to racial harassment in the district.

In an attempt to encompass the concerns expressed by Hemphill and Nagarajan-Swenson, the board passed a motion to adopt the description with the direction that the announcement for the position will express a desire for training and knowledge in trauma.

At the meeting, the board also received an update on the use of the Academic Support Index, or ASI, a method for identifying students struggling in school, across the district. ASI looks at the “headwinds” faced by certain students that can pose greater obstacles in their education — including being an English learner or of low income — and measures the amount of support that student may require.

David Stevens, who works in Research Evaluation and Assessment for BUSD, spoke during the meeting of ASI’s predictive abilities, which, going forward, can be used to initiate preventive measures or early interventions in the academic careers of students who score high on the ASI.

“ASI is a means, not an ends, a tool and not a solution,” Stevens said during the meeting. “It’s called the Academic Support Index because while it has great utility as a tool for research and evaluation, the primary application of the ASI in BUSD is for the purpose of supporting students and improving student outcomes.”

Sydney Fix is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sydney_fix.