Nightly News   |  June 02, 2013

A new approach to curbing violence in schools

A Chicago school is taking a new approach to dealing with violence, and the results are indicating success. NBC’s Rehema Ellis reports.

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>>> education nation report on helping kids in trouble at school get back on track. it's an innovate i've proech being taken by some schools, one that emphasizes their potential for progress over punishment. story tonight from nbc's chief education correspondent rehema ellis.

>> reporter: this high school in chicago was marked by a history of low being a dem being achievement and violence.

>> there will be more officers outside in near fangor high school .

>> reporter: six years ago the deadly beating of an honor student just blocks from the school was caught on tape and symbolize the dangers facing kids from low-income neighborhoods.

>> when i first got here, i was kind of scared, like what if somebody would happen to me.

>> reporter: today those tensions have eased. the principal now patrols the hallways determined to keep order.

>> it is in the a violent place.

>> reporter: misconducts are down by 80%, graduation up 8% and officials point to restorative justice as part of the reason why.

>> i've seen their lives transformed.

>> reporter: the practice which is being used in several big city schools is changing the culture of expectations for kids from tough neighborhoods. students working in groups like this peace circle that can last from 40 minutes to two hours, learn how to listen and talk through a conflict instead of fight.

>> it's what kids need to really be able to process through what they're feeling and to be heard.

>> reporter: there's also a peer jury that substitutes for traditional disciplinary actions like suspensions.

>> suspending a student doesn't work. but if you give that student an opportunity to learn from his actions, then that's when it's working.

>> reporter: through a combination of factors, restorative justice has not only reduced the number of fights in the school, but officials say it's also led to improved attendance and better grades. a comfort for la tanya stanford. it was her cousin who was killed in 2009 .

>> it makes me feel like i'm safe now. like those type of things wouldn't happen.

>> reporter: but the funding for the additional services ends this year, and the principal worries that could end the school's success.

>> it's fragile. we work at it every single day. it is like a marriage or a relationship. you got to keep work rg at it.

>> reporter: one school teaching students how to resolve differences, and improving how they learn. rehema ellis, nbc news, chicago.