June 9, 2014
Senator Durbin Meets with Students
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin visited Umoja and South Shore International College Preparatory High School on Monday, May 19, 2014 to learn more about Umoja's Restorative Justice work happening there.
Umoja has piloted and is staffing a Peace Room on site, helping the school to integrate restorative practices into their culture. The percentage of misconducts resulting in suspensions have been dramatically reduced after just one year of this work, a metric that is key to keeping students in school and on track to graduation.
Senator Durbin met with Umoja staff, students and the school's principal, Janice Wells, to better understand the impact this work has on the school culture and young people's lives.
“For too many young people, our schools are becoming a gateway not to college, but to prison,” Durbin said. “In 2012, I held a hearing in Washington that focused on the culture of zero tolerance in many schools. I heard how easy it is for young people to fall into a cycle of repeated contact with the criminal justice system, even for minor infractions. Since then, I’ve sought out programs and schools that are using alternative methods to set kids on the right path.”
“Umoja and South Shore International College Preparatory are a great example. Instead of reacting to conflict with overly harsh discipline, Umoja is helping young people work through the underlying issues driving those conflicts and develop the skills they need to make better choices. Their work helps put the focus back where it should be: on learning and growth. The four students I met in Umoja’s Peace Room ran into plenty of trouble in their first year at South Shore. They didn’t like the way they were perceived by fellow students and teachers as a result, so they took responsibility for their actions and made a concerted effort to change their behavior in challenging situations. Now they're able to focus on their school work. I applaud Umoja and South Shore’s efforts and will continue doing all I can to support restorative justice best practices from Washington,” said Durbin.