For-profit

Akoben

Website:

https://akobenllc.org/

Location:

Wilmington, Delaware

Formation:

2012

CEO:

Malik Muhammad

Type:

Diversity Consulting

Akoben is a for-profit diversity consulting company that provides workshops to promote so-called “restorative practices” in schools, human service agencies, community organizations, and businesses. Restorative practices are programs originating from criminology in the 1970s that emphasized repairing relationships between offenders and victims. [1]

Akoben was founded in December 2012 by Malik Muhammad. As a school administrator, Muhammad used a theory known as restorative practices to minimize conflict and punitive disciplinary measures. [2] Upon being requested by other school districts to introduce his methods, Muhammad established Akoben to organize workshops to train teachers on restorative practices, cultural relevancy, and trauma-informed care. In 2013, Akoben introduced restorative practices to 19 school districts and several charter schools in Delaware. [3] Until 2018, Dr. Muhammad simultaneously served as vice president of operations of Pathways by Molina, a mental health counselling company, while running Akoben. [4]

Restorative Practices

Akoben’s services are based primarily on the promotion of “restorative practices,” a social science originating from criminology in the 1970s that emphasized repairing relationships between offenders and victims. In the context of education, restorative practices primarily consist of mitigating traditional punishments (such as detention or suspension) for mediated discussions that attempt to eliminate the root cause of the student’s misbehavior. Such discussions can occur between teachers and unruly students or between students in conflict. [5]

Akoben claims that their workshops have produced tangible benefits for schools which implement restorative practices, including reductions in punitive discipline, narrowing of achievement and discipline gaps, and improved self-esteem in teachers and students. [6]

According to the non-partisan Hechinger Report, restorative practices spiked in popularity after the U.S. Department of Education released a report in 2014 detailing widespread discrimination against non-white students. Early studies found many of the same benefits in schools that Akoben claims. However, later research found that the supposed benefits were temporary or random. Many schools failed to implement restorative practices even after hiring consulting firms like Akoben because the requirements of time and effort demanded by restorative practices were implausible. [7] Other educators have criticized restorative practices for failing to properly discipline or remove bullies from classroom environments. [8]

Training and Workshops

Parents Defending Education has tracked over $833,000 in payments from schools to Akoben as of October 2021. Akoben does not disclose payments on its website, Parents Defending Education data showed that most schools purchased one- or two-day workshops at costs ranging from $1,000-$6,500. Akoben also provides keynote speakers to events for similar fees. [9]

Cecil County Public Schools

The majority of the payments, amounting to $612,600, came from Cecil County, Maryland Public Schools between 2018 and 2021. The district financed the fees with grants from the National Institute of Justice and Student Based Diversion Initiative. [10]

In May 2018, the school district put out a notice asking for companies to submit proposals to provide restorative practices training for its staff and administrators. On July 17, the district signed a contract for $96,000 with Akoben to “implement restorative practices protocols,” including the establishment of two full-time “Restorative Justice practitioners” from July 2018 through July 2019. Each teacher and administrator would undergo 320 hours of training throughout the year. [11]

In August 2019, the district renewed its contract for another year for $213,600. In March 2021, the district signed a new contract for $87,600 to continue restorative practices training for 36.5 days. In July, the contract was renewed for another year for $215,400. [12]

References

  1. Barshay, Jill. “The promise of ‘restorative justice’ starts to falter under rigorous research.” The Hechinger Report. May 6, 2019. Accessed October 26, 2021. https://hechingerreport.org/the-promise-of-restorative-justice-starts-to-falter-under-rigorous-research/. ^
  2. “3 Pillars for Building a Restorative Practices Culture.” Principal Project. September 16, 2021. Accessed October 26, 2021. https://blog.principalproject.org/3-pillars-for-building-a-restorative-practices-culture/. ^
  3. “About.” Akoben. Accessed October 26, 2021. https://akobenllc.org/about/. ^
  4. “Malik Muhammad.” LinkedIn. Accessed October 26, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/malik-muhammad-0ab4b77b/. ^
  5. Barshay, Jill. “The promise of ‘restorative justice’ starts to falter under rigorous research.” The Hechinger Report. May 6, 2019. Accessed October 26, 2021. https://hechingerreport.org/the-promise-of-restorative-justice-starts-to-falter-under-rigorous-research/. ^
  6. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Akoben. Accessed October 26, 2021. https://akobenllc.org/frequently-asked-questions/. ^
  7. Barshay, Jill. “The promise of ‘restorative justice’ starts to falter under rigorous research.” The Hechinger Report. May 6, 2019. Accessed October 26, 2021. https://hechingerreport.org/the-promise-of-restorative-justice-starts-to-falter-under-rigorous-research/. ^
  8. “My Child Was A Victim Of Restorative Justice. But It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way.” Education Post. October 21, 2019. Accessed October 26, 2021. https://educationpost.org/my-child-was-a-victim-of-restorative-justice-but-it-doesnt-have-to-be-this-way/. ^
  9. “Akoben, LLC.” Parents Defending Education. Accessed October 26, 2021. https://defendinged.org/report/akoben-llc/. ^
  10. “Akoben, LLC.” Parents Defending Education. Accessed October 26, 2021. https://defendinged.org/report/akoben-llc/. ^
  11. “Akoben, LLC.” Parents Defending Education. Accessed October 26, 2021. https://defendinged.org/report/akoben-llc/. ^
  12. “Akoben, LLC.” Parents Defending Education. Accessed October 26, 2021. https://defendinged.org/report/akoben-llc/. ^
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