Gwinnett County School District to pause controversial disciplinary practices

Gwinnett County School District to pause controversial disciplinary practices
Published: Dec. 16, 2022 at 4:23 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Relief may be coming for parents, students, and teachers in Gwinnett County Schools, which have been plagued by a recent uptick in violence. The district plans to change the way it disciplines its students. But the superintendent’s controversial restorative practices policy isn’t ending, it’s just being put on hold.

A parent who has two kids in the Gwinnett County School District says she’s lost confidence in the administration and doesn’t think they’re going to follow through on a newly announced disciplinary policy.

“It’s very hard to trust that this is a genuine step forward,” said Philana Nowack.

Nowack is one of dozens of parents in Gwinnett County who say they shouldn’t fear for their children’s safety when they send them off to school each day.

“It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about what could be. And then putting [a child] into a situation that could be very harmful to him and it just makes me very nervous,” said Nowack.

Fights in Georgia’s largest school district are up more than 30 percent. The district is seeing gun violence as well: a student fired a gun on campus at Shiloh and a Norcross High School student was killed in a shooting just steps away from campus. Parents blame the district’s new disciplinary policy. The policy was designed to intervene and address the behavioral, social, and emotional needs of students instead of solely using punitive measures.

But now Superintendent Calvin Watts is walking back that policy. During a school board meeting this week, Watts announced the district is pausing the program until the next school year, during which time staff will undergo more training.

While Nowack is glad the controversial restorative intervention policy is being put on hold, she doesn’t think the district is going far enough. She wants the superintendent to step down from his position.

Atlanta News First reached out to the district for comment. We were told the superintendent along with his administration are on a retreat and unavailable for comment.