ST. PAUL, Minn. — St. Paul teachers are trying “restorative practices” in their approach to discipline instead of suspending misbehaving students.

Restorative practices aim to help students take responsibility for their actions while keeping them in the classroom, Minnesota Public Radio reported . Teachers hold discussions daily in an effort to prevent bad behavior by getting students invested in doing the right thing. When students act out, the class is encouraged to talk about their feelings.

“It’s a way that creates an opportunity for growth for individuals,” said Nick Altringer, a science teacher at Murray Middle School. “The other way is more punitive, so it’s always about harming the person and harming the person until they stop.”

Six schools with the Saint Paul Public Schools district each received $150,000 last year for additional staff, teacher training and informing parents of the new approach. The district extended funding this year and added three additional schools, with the hope of adding three more schools next year. The district has committed more than $4 million to the restorative practices project over three years.

Area teachers began advocating for restorative practices two years ago as the district struggled with school discipline practices. Students of color were being disproportionately affected by suspensions. When the districted tried to correct that practice, it found that it stopped enforcing consequences. Restorative practices are an effort to find a middle ground.

Murray has seen discipline referrals decline from 2015 to 2017. The school has used restorative methods for more than 30 cases this year, according to the school’s restorative practices coordinator.

District leaders said it’s too early to tell how effective the new approach is.

Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News,

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