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  • NYC students, advocates call for school-based restorative justice, mental health funding

    Feb 23, 2024

    Students present their budget priorities regarding school safety and restorative justice at a
    Julian Shen-Berro / Chalkbeat

    Chalkbeat – During a lesson on the Black Lives Matter movement in her first year of high school, Lexi Greenberg was shocked to hear two students in her class making insensitive and offensive remarks.

    “I left the lesson feeling angry and alone,” she said, noting she was the only Black student in the class. Lexi approached staff at Millennium Brooklyn High School, where just 14% of students are Black, and asked for the students to be suspended.

    Instead, the school counselor and principal urged her to meet with the students before the school pursued any potential disciplinary action.

    She was reluctant at first, but Lexi said meeting with her classmates helped her quickly realize they’d spoken from a place of ignorance, rather than harm. They were “extremely apologetic and regretful,” and after the meeting, they became her first friends in high school.

    Lexi, now a senior, remains close with those students today, and is a founding member of her school’s Restorative Justice Action Team.

    “None of the wonderful things that have happened to me in high school would have happened if I had pushed for suspension,” she said. “I made a choice to listen and see the people on the other side of the problem instead of burying myself in resentment and hate, and that opened me up to a whole new universe of joy and acceptance.”

    Lexi is one of the dozens of students urging the city to increase funding for restorative justice — a philosophy rooted in providing students and staff space to talk through conflicts without resorting to more punitive measures. She shared her story Thursday as part of the “Dignity in Schools” coalition, a group of New York City students, families, educators, and advocates that are calling for the city to invest millions of dollars in restorative justice and mental health programs in schools, while diverting funding away from policing.