The current United States Secretary of Education, John King, was in New Haven yesterday to meet with students involved in a discipline program that tries to avoid suspensions and expulsions.
Instead of punitive punishments, programs like Project Youth Court seek to break the ties of the school-to-prison pipeline by putting justice in the hands of students.
“U.S. Secretary of Education John King stopped in New Haven Monday as he concludes his term to highlight such work the city and state have done in the arena of restorative justice and ending the school-to-prison pipeline. City, state and federal officials met for a roundtable at Wilbur Cross High School to share with King the work being done in New Haven and Connecticut to keep students out of the justice system and to reintegrate disengaged students back into the classroom so they can graduate from high school.Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and Senator Richard Blumenthal were also on hand at Wilbur Cross High School to hear from Sofia Yanza and Tony Torres, sophomores at High School in the Community and volunteers with the citywide Youth Court, which encourages productive, non-punitive punishments for peers who have admitted to misdemeanor offenses.”
The Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut announced last week that Wilbur Cross was one of 18 schools selected to participate in its Connecticut School-Based Diversion Initiative, joining Augusta Lewis Troup School, Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School and New Horizons School in the most recent cohort from New Haven, with West Haven’s Bailey Middle School, Carrigan Middle School and West Haven High School. The program, funded through a partnership of four different state departments and recently expanded through Malloy’s Second Chance Initiative, connects students with mental health professionals as an alternative to arrest in some cases.
State Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell said New Haven schools such as Wilbur Cross and Lincoln Bassett School, both part of the state’s Commissioner’s Network school turnaround effort, are showing success.
“We really need to reach a little higher and a little harder to reach all those at-risk kids,” Wentzell said.