Thoughtful Parenting: Restorative justice
Restorative Justice is a set of practices used to resolve conflict using peaceful and nonpunitive approaches. It is often used in school settings as an alternative to exclusionary disciplinary actions, which can be harmful to children. Restoration for victims, support for offenders, dialogue between victims and offenders (as appropriate) and respect for all parties are key components. Restorative Justice looks at a problem not simply as a breaking of rules or laws, but as a violation or harming of real people.
The desired outcome of Restorative Justice is reconciliation and reacceptance of the wrongdoer back into the school community, rather than isolation and stigmatization. By focusing on building and repairing relationships instead of assigning blame and doling out punishments, Restorative Justice can be an important catalyst in creating a more nurturing school climate and provides a valuable learning experience for participants.
The Restorative Justice process includes the victims, offenders and community members (including teachers and parents/guardians) who are involved in a specific incident of crime or wrongdoing. All parties collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations to repair the harm. Perpetrators are walked through the harm that their actions caused their victim so they can take responsibility for their actions and make amends. Entire classes, individual students and parents can successfully participate in the Restorative Justice process by engaging in practices ranging from mediation to one-on-one conversations and connection circles. Participants nearly unanimously agree that the process is positive, impactful and relevant.
All Routt County school districts use Restorative Justice practices at the secondary level to some degree. Throughout the 2017-18 school year, Hayden Secondary Schools piloted the use of Restorative Justice practices as alternatives to detentions, suspensions and expulsions to repair harm and move forward using a process that reduces the chances of a repetition of wrongdoing or violation of school rules. During the 2018-19 school year, Hayden School District will expand the use of Restorative Justice practices and continue to embed restorative language into the school’s culture.
There will be a presentation at 6 to 7 p.m. Aug. 30 in the high school auditorium which will provide parents, students and community members the opportunity to learn more about Restorative Justice and its benefits to schools and the greater community.
Tina Benish-Holmes, teacher; Sarah Cantrell, counselor; Gina Zabel, principal; Lexi Cyphers, teacher; and Lindsay Kohler, social worker, are members of the core team for Restorative Justice at Hayden Secondary Schools.
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