Restorative Justice is a philosophy and an approach to discipline that moves away from punishment toward restoring a sense of harmony and well-being for all those affected by a hurtful act. It provides families, schools, and communities a way to ensure accountability while at the same time breaking the cycle of retribution and violence. This approach acknowledges that when a person does harm, it affects the people they hurt, the community, and themselves. When using restorative practices, an attempt is made to repair the harm caused by one person to another and to the community so that everyone is moved toward healing.
The vessel which begins the process of restoring these relationships is a restorative circle. Following conflicts, students, staff, restorative justice facilitators, and at times, families are asked to sit down to engage in a restorative circle. These circles are led by our trained restorative justice staff to ensure a safe space, equity of voice, and fruitful discussion to repair the harm that has been done. In some cases, multiple restorative circles are needed to get to the heart of the problem.
Philosophically, we believe that investing time in these conversations is more productive and beneficial to the school community than simply doling out consequences. That being said, Restorative Justice is not the absence of consequences, however we believe in meaningful consequences that actually restore harm and allow students to reflect and practice new behaviors. Some examples of consequences could include: teaching an advisory lesson on bullying, co-facilitating a parent workshop on the effects of vaping in adolescents, writing a research paper about body shaming, required participation in the school’s Green Team initiatives, and many more.
If you would like more information about our school’s Restorative Justice program, please reach out to the Dean of School Culture, MJ Negron @ firstname.lastname@example.org.