On June 21, the open session of the Montclair Township Board of Education meeting started at 7:45 p.m., 15 minutes late, but we (the public) had to wait until 9:30 p.m. to have our three-minute comment. I wanted to make my comment early, but had to pick up my daughter from gymnastics. I used my phone to listen to the meeting. Because I didn’t raise my hand to comment before comments started (no one told us so), I didn’t have the chance to make my comment. Therefore, I will do it right now. 

A restorative justice program is being implemented as a pilot in some of our schools in Montclair. I strongly support this program and I will explain why.

Why should we invest energy and resources into restorative practices in schools? Why should we embark on this cultural change? Because if we are truly ashamed of being the country in the world that incarcerates its people the most, if we are truly ashamed that here in the United States we coined the term “school to prison pipeline,” and if we truly care about our children, we must depart from punitive approaches — not only because they don’t work, but because they are cruel, and because we have the responsibility and the duty to avoid our having children being touched by the criminal “injustice” system. 

We have the tools to stop this by implementing restorative justice practices into our schools. We must depart from retributive justice, which is centered on punishment and revenge, to embrace instead restorative practices centered in healing and prevention. 

Therefore, it is incongruous to have a resource officer in the high school and spend more than $100,000 dollars on his salary, when there are more urgent needs. The Board of Education has decided to lay off 30-plus school staff members after the pandemic, when the students need support the most. If you talk to parents around town you’ll realize right away that children are struggling with mental health problems. We have financial resources coming from the federal government and it is not the time to make cuts in our budget. Let’s invest in our children, let’s invest in restorative practices. Let’s remove the resource officer from the school. 

Maria Eva Dorigo


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