Days after Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School (Mervo) junior Jeremiah Brogden was shot and killed in his school’s parking lot, City Councilman Zeke Cohen, leaders of the Baltimore Teachers Union, and several city schools students held a rally outside City Hall calling on district leadership to implement the existing restorative practices program in all Baltimore City schools.
“We need to go into the schools and have these conversations because without it, we’ll keep going through the same cycles of youth violence,” said Taylor Hines, a recent graduate of Mervo who works with the Healing Youth Alliance. “Anyone can break up a fight. We need emotional mediators.”
OSI-Baltimore made an initial investment to bring restorative practices, including conflict resolution and efforts to improve school climate, to Baltimore City Schools in 2006. In 2008, OSI began supporting City Springs Elementary/Middle and Hampstead Hill Academy to train staff in restorative approaches. In 2016, in collaboration with OSI’s Karen Webber, Baltimore City Schools’ Board and CEO made an ambitious pledge to implement restorative practices in the daily workings of all of its schools and programs over a five-year period. In 2018, the district designated its first cohort of fourteen schools as “intensive learning sites” that would receive training and coaching in restorative practices. Restorative practices programs have since been implemented in 53 of the city’s 164 schools.
According to a 2020 report released by OSI, Baltimore City Schools, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore City Schools that have adopted restorative practices since 2018 have seen dramatic drops in suspensions, improved school climate, and better relationships between students and teachers.
Cohen said he will propose a City Council resolution calling on the school system to implement restorative practices in every school. “These moments of tragedy give you an opportunity to pause and refocus,” he said. “We need to make this an urgent priority.”