“I’m 20 years to late” School board member statement, made in Circle. Reflecting on hearing about RJ in Schools.
The school board member went on to say how he never really thought that suspensions and expulsions worked all that well anyway. He was glad to be able to answer questions now, about School Restorative Justice. It was a perfect example of why different levels of school structure should be part of implementation.
Restorative Justice can be implemented right away, as soon as an incident occurs. If schools reach out to SCVRJP and request the service. If you don’t live in the SCVRJP service area, contact your local RJ program and see if that would be possible for your school. You have parents give consent for the referral, many times families are eager to “work things out” than face the formal discipline. You may also use formal discipline and add Restorative Justice as part of that. For example at an expulsion hearing.
There are many myths, and misunderstandings about RJ. We take cases along a continuum. The left side being, prevention or diversion and the right side being totally involved in the formal system. RJ also deals with cases along a continuum from the left that is not very violent to the most violent of all case. As you move to the right side, more experience and training, planning a preparation is required.
For schools, having staff, students, administrators, board members, parents and community supporting or even aware of RJ is crucial. I like to use Belinda Hopkins Model (paraphrasing her) :
4 – Being Restorative – a mindset and framework at all times
3- Doing – You facilitate process
2-Referring– you pass cases on to RJ
1- Interested – curious about using RJ
0 – Unaware or ignorant to what RJ is
–1 – opposed or against RJ
I like to train on this level, and seek to always move people up the scale.
I must express caution – – I have experience people taking on ‘Doing’ RJ and they called what they did RJ, but in reality, they had no training and simply misunderstand that simply putting two people in conflict together is all that RJ is. So I caution schools, to not just slap on the label “restorative justice”.
I was proud to visit a community and engage with students, staff, board, teachers, parents. I helped with 6 Circles in two days. Each one was special and brought new perspectives and helped advance Restorative Justice.
I hope you consider bringing RJ to your community!