District State: Alabama
District Website: trussvillecityschools.com
Challenge: Increases in mental health issues and bullying on social media led to more school discipline events that were distractions to classroom instruction. Consequently, school safety and suicide prevention both became issues.
Initiative: The P.A.C.E. program, for “Positive Attitudes Change Everything,” includes restorative justice practices and character education to positively remedy discipline problems, restore self-esteem, and teach personal and digital citizenship skills. P.A.C.E. features three components: character education, mental health and suicide prevention. School counselors teach character skills, and each student has at least five adults in the building with whom they are personally connected and to whom they can go for help or comfort.
Impact: “The P.A.C.E. program is an initiative tailor-made to meet our district needs, and it costs nothing,” says Superintendent Pattie Neill. Discipline issues have diminished, and students enjoy improved mental health. Students also self-correct more often now, and justice is restored more easily because discipline is minimized.
Advice: “This program can be implemented in any school system,” says Neill. Teachers model positive behavior, and each month is dedicated to encouraging a particular character skill, such as compassion, self-control or perseverance.