WASHINGTON - A video showing a student at Ballou High School cursing, threatening and even putting his hands on a teacher is making its way across social media. In many cases, something like this would have led to an automatic expulsion of a student. But instead, D.C. Public Schools is trying to take a different approach with a program aimed at punishing the student while also offering counseling. It aims to avoid derailing a student's future.
“I think he was trying to push my buttons,” said Mr. Taylor, the substitute teacher in the video.
He spoke to FOX 5 about that classroom outburst. The video looks like an assault, but Taylor described it more as playing around or acting out. In fact, he never reported it.
“I know that there was no real threat to me – real or imagined,” Taylor said. “I didn't feel like he was going to hurt me.”
But when this video showed up on social media, Ballou principal Yetunde Reeves got involved.
“I was really upset,” she said. “I was disappointed that a student would do this to a member of our staff.”
Reeves had the power to kick out the student, a senior who was close to graduation, and that could have derailed his life. Instead, administrators decided to offer the student a program being used at D.C. Public Schools called Restorative Justice.
“Sending someone home for 10, 15, 20 days does not necessarily mean they are going to own the behavior, and actually do something different the next time around,” said Reeves. “So our goal is that our students will begin to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing, own it and move forward in a very different way.”
The student had to apologize, take part in extensive mediation and even write an essay about what he did wrong. He was suspended for a few days and was told he could not attend prom. But he was allowed to return to school.
The Restorative Justice program seems to be working here at Ballou. In the last year, fighting is down and the number of suspensions has dropped by 50 percent.
Taylor said he has accepted the apology from the student and did not want a few seconds caught on video to ruin a student for life.
“I definitely don't see a continual problem with issues that have been addressed,” said Taylor. “Usually when issues are addressed, they kind of go away.”