A comparative study in Arab newcomers’ challenges and how they are addressed in restorative and non-restorative justice high schools in Northern California

Newcomers coming from the Middle East and North Africa, as English Learners (ELs), face barriers to learning and often lag behind their native-English-speaking peers, and further also face racial disparities in discipline (Burke, 2015; Losen & Keith, 2015). The purpose of this comparative study was to identify MENA high school newcomers’ academic, acculturation and socio-emotional challenges, and examine how these challenges were addressed within restorative justice practices [RJP] high schools compared to Non-RJP high schools at the leadership, communication and cultural awareness levels. The researcher conducted the study in two RJP and two Non-RJP oriented high schools within the same school district, using a concurrent mixed methods approach. Surveys were administered to teachers (N=97) and MENA newcomers (N=46). In addition, individual interviews (N=39) with MENA newcomers and four principals and focus groups (N=22) as well as discussions with teachers were conducted to triangulate data. Quantitative data collected was analyzed using Multivariate, Univariate, Independent Samples t-Test and Pearson correlation tests. Student results showed significant differences in MENA newcomers’ self- awareness and school connectedness. In RJP schools, students were more supported within their microsystem by their teachers. Research findings showed the existence of mismanagement and staffing problems at the leadership level that directly impacted ELs/ MENA newcomers. The finding suggest that MENA newcomers felt disconnected from their school and exhibited low self-image in Non-RJP schools when compared to their peers in RJP schools. MENA newcomers’ school connectedness was affected by their surrounding ecological systems which resulted in academic limitations and coping difficulties in their new schooling environment.