NY Bus Bully incident, Karen Klien and Restorative Justice.

The bus monitor bullied by middle school boys.  It’s been in the media and ironically, I first heard of the incident in Circle Training.   Karen Klien recently offered that she would like to talk to them to ask they why.  (article)

The natural course of this, has some restorative elements.  The victim didn’t think the apology letters were sincere.  It was the 4th student who did an apology face to face that helped Karen.

Restorative Justice is victim-centered, victim initiated, different from systems, who discipline, punish, sanction.  Repairing the harm becomes the responsibility of systems and repairing the harm is the focus of Restorative Justice efforts.  Systems that engage Restorative Justice can do double the repair work.  Karen said she is “fine” with the school’s response.  My bet is that Restorative Justice would produce results that are more than her feeling fine.

There are limitless options in Restorative Justice, and who knows what a well run Circle or Restorative Justice Conference could have produced.  I do want to compliment those that responded under the scrutiny of international media.  Well done to include community service with senior citizens.

Restorative Justice and system responses usually come to the same type of outcomes.  The difference is that the families of both victim and offender are involved in co-creating the outcomes.  Victims are more satisfied, offenders are more compliant. (Evidence article) In my experiences the families of those that caused harm, are much more on board and understanding of any consequences or sanctions.

In my community some of our local schools will assign Restorative Justice as a condition of returning after expulsion.  I wish we could set it up so we could do Restorative Justice quickly, when in some instances we could.  When we have gotten a referral, when we’ve done “morning after” restorative justice it has worked really well.  I don’t understand why it doesn’t happen more often.

At the same time, I should be cautious of what I wish for.  Our nonprofit only has so much capacity.  In part that is why SCVRJP, teaches others to do Restorative Justice.  Our partnership with our local university is an excellent example.  They recently created a student leadership position “Circlekeeper”.  Clearly they see the value.

When I teach schools about Restorative Justice – I come from a whole school approach.  That Circles, a Restorative Justice process, can be done to change culture, increase safety, reduce harm.  Classroom circles, school wide Circles, Circles to respond to wrong-doing – all based on a very simple model.  It is so effective and the results are long-lasting.  When I haven’t seen a word about Restorative Justice in this incident, I realize how far we have to go in bringing Restorative Justice, aka Restorative Measures, aka Restorative Practices to schools.

I get optimistic about humanity when I see that Restorative elements were alive and happened organically in the incident on the NY bus.  Good things happened, and it resembled restorative work, and it happened because Restorative Justice makes sense, it is grounded in the potential for good to come from bad.  You see the power of the human spirit is designed to heal.  Those boys acted from a place of their edges, not their core.  When they said sorry, and they accepted the sanctions from the school, they are now acting from their core.  What more could we ask for?

I hope the path ahead is smooth for everyone involved.  I hope that we can continue to learn about bully behavior and respond to it in a way that people learn and aren’t punished into becoming worse.