It’s a problem that plagues schools across the country — finding a balance between how to appropriately discipline children for classroom-based problems and how to keep them engaged in school.
It’s no different in Clark County.
A shift in thinking at some valley schools is sparking a shift in the number of kids sent to court as a result of getting into trouble in class.
At Cheyenne High School students are trained to serve as peer mediators.
“And you don’t have sympathy, you have empathy for their situation, because you put yourself in their situation,” said Miya Burns, senior student.
By working with their peers to come up with solutions on how to correct behavioral issues, students like senior Miya Burns and junior Raquel Mar say those who are referred to the program participate in the solution instead of being isolated at home if they were suspended.
“It just helps them evolve into being a better and more mature person than they are when they first go there,” said Raquel Mar, junior student.
Cheyenne High School social worker Gerald Robinson has seen a shift in behavior among students at his school since implementing a restorative justice program two-and-a half years ago.
“Once we peel back the layers, we’re able now to identify some strategies to help them deal with those challenges that they’re experiencing,” Robinson said.
In the first two years, 608 students participated in the peer-run program.
Only six students committed another offense — a more than 99 percent success rate.
“The vast majority of the kids coming to us on referrals to the system historically have been kids that don’t need to be in our system,” said Hon. William Voy, delinquency court judge.
Judge Voy has long advocated for ways to de-escalate school-based situations before they become criminal justice matters.
He says these programs are starting to have an impact — less kids who come before him — but he’d like to see more schools work on alternatives like what’s being done at Cheyenne.
The court system sponsors this Keeping Kids in School Summit in the hopes that with more school and community buy-in to alternative ways of dealing with discipline it will reduce the burden on the courts.