Akron Public Schools awarded grant to train staff to address school violence
Akron Public Schools was awarded a $856,311 federal grant to address school violence, as incidents of misbehavior and fights persist within the district.
The district has taken many actions to reduce school violence, including locking student's cell phones. This grant money, awarded by the Students, Teachers and Officers Preventing School Violence Program, will go towards training teachers and staff in restorative practices and mediation.
The investment aims to help improve relationships for students and teachers, said Wanda Lash, director of student and family services at APS.
“At the end of the day what we want to see is positive school climate, positive school culture,” she said. “That’s what we want to build.”
Teachers and staff will be trained in the Whole-School Change Program, which uses elements of restorative practices, including communication, mediation and openly expressing feelings, to address conflicts and violence.
Research on the Whole-School Change Program’s implementation in Pittsburgh Public Schools found that restorative practices were successful in reducing student suspensions. This research inspired APS to try the program, Lash said.
“We’re looking to experience the benefits that were reported by this program, that we’ll see lower suspension and expulsion rates, absenteeism will be improved, behavior will be improved,” Lash said. “When you have those things working together, then we have kids and people in school that feel school connectedness.”
The grant will be used at the high school, the middle school and an elementary school in the Garfield cluster, and it is effective for a three-year term. After the term, the district will continue training and consider implementation at more schools, Lash said.
“After we implement this at three schools and we have trainers that are also able to train, then we’re able to bring this to additional schools in the district,” she said.
APS will begin with a planning phase, in which the district will work directly with the International Institute for Restorative Practices to assess school data and start implementing the program, Lash said.
“What we hope is that the funding will help us start to look at how we respond to school violence,” she said, “so that students can succeed.”