Specialized Training in School-based Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices

Today’s post is the first for Circle Space Services a brand new non-profit, that began operations on July 1, 2015.

This blog will remain a resource for practitioners, advocates and anyone else interested in learning and reading about the applications of Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles and Kris Miner.

Circle Space Services will have 3 core service areas, focused on Restorative Justice Peacemaking Services. The 3 areas of service and training will be: Schools – Veterans – Severe Crime. Circle Space Services will also offer workshops and presentations on Restorative Justice.

The first training available is offered as a partnership with Lakes Area Restorative Justice, LARJP website.

Restorative School Implementation August 18 & 19, 9 am – 4 pm, Brainard MN

A letter that provides the training context is here: LARJP training Aug 2015

For details on the training, and registration information please see: LARJP Miner-RJ Training Brochure

The next training for Veterans will be in September, Veterans Healing Flyer Sept.

Restorative Justice School Coordinator Training!

The best of the best from Texas, Minnesota and Wisconsin will be woven in to the training experience in July. SCVRJP just finshed the 2nd Advanced School practices training and is preparing for the July 8th and 9th training session. The content will be unique to previous trainings, as it will cover a range of Restorative processes that can be used in schools.

Session trainer Kris Miner has been part of a team consulting with Nancy Riestenberg and the Minnesota Department of Education on materials for implementation, including the most recent Trainers Guide for Working with Schools to Implement Restorative Practices. Kris is spending 5 days in Texas with University of Texas, Austin Restorative Justice Institute, attending their school coordinator and administrators training for restorative discipline.

This training is available at SCVRJP in July or agencies can bring Kris on-site to provide the training. Program Flyer

5 tips for the journey, community to school-based Restorative Justice.

I was very fortunate that in 1999 and 2000 the founders of St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program, had intentions on focusing the program on juveniles.  They also engaged a founding board member, who at the time was on the local school board.  Her take on expulsions in schools, was youth were being pushed away at a time they should be brought closer.   With her leadership SCVRJP focused on “embedding the philosophy” of Restorative Justice in the St. Croix Valley.  As board chair she guided us towards the areas of juvenile justice and schools, and the core programs of Victim Impact Panels and victim-offender mediation (as we called it then).

As luck would have it, we added a high school assistant principal to the board of directors.  His house was egged, he accepted Restorative Justice.  His story of the healing it brought his spouse, and the positive relationship with the students, promoted his support and use of SCVRJP.

The first Circle I kept for SCVRJP was in 2005, for a school-based incident.  I still keep a copy of the young man’s apology letter in my book of Circle readings.  He still keeps the Circle of individual ribbons tied together, in his top drawer of special things.

I live 12 miles from River Falls, where SCVRJP was founded and eventually opened the Restorative Justice Center in 2006.  Before the Restorative Justice Center opened, when I was “on the clock” I would stop in at the high school.  This became a pattern of getting cases.  Sometimes it was the students waiting to be disciplined. The assistant principal saw me, saw the student, and brought us in his office together.  Sometimes we just visited about how to handle concerns at the school restoratively.  SCVRJP handled cases of lunch room food fights, students assaulting each other, gym class threats, mean girls, overdose at school, truancy, drugs and drinking on a field trip.  We handled these in various degrees of diversion or formal involvement.

The use of Restorative Justice was part of the student handbook and code of conduct.  A few years later I called back for a new copy, it had already been removed.  Staff changed, SCVRJP got busier and the use of Restorative Justice reduced in individual cases, and increased in teachers and staff coming to training.  SCVRJP volunteers helped with Circles at a lock-in, one of those high school students is now in my college course!  At any rate, things change, that is the first tip for the journey!

Be wise with your time and energy, things ebb and flow, and they change.  Especially in schools.  be patient when working with school systems.  Consider the growing of a garden, sometimes to prune things back is best.  Sometimes you get good tomatoes and sometimes you feed the bugs!

The 2nd tip, is to promote community.  As community based programs, we are often “righting wrongs”.  Community programs typically take referrals after an incident has happened.  In schools it is important to reaffirm, repair and rebuild relationships (pbis posts).  I teach schools Circles, because they can be used for academic instruction, classroom behavior management, and resolving conflict.  To teach teachers how to do a victim-offender conference, is not the way to start (in my opinion).  They don’t have time, they don’t understand the overarching philosophy or goals.  The 3rd tip, is to meet schools where they are at.

Meet a school where they are at means spending time getting to know how they have come to want school-based restorative justice.  I could list 50 different schools I’ve worked with, and I can give you 50 different ways they came to want to be trained in Restorative Justice.  Help them based on where they are at and what they want.  Align with the goals of those invested.

My 4th ‘wisdom of the lived experience’, encourage them to try something.  When working with schools, have the direct application tips for teachers.  These people are already angels, and they need clear specific “how do I” answers and training materials.  Be structured in what you are asking them to do, from the 1:1 conversation with students, to how to keep the Circle.  I love good teachers, the best are no-bullshit, and for a farm girl from South Dakota, I’ve always gotten that.  They need you to be real, and to be confident and know your stuff.  If you don’t know it, you can’t fake it.  The best compliment I got was someone giving me positive feedback for doing Circle in Circle training.  He had just been at a training on student engagement, and the trainer lectured and did powerpoint the entire day.

The 5th tip . . . walk the journey, go back to the school, do coaching and follow up.  I had some exhausting days, but I learned the most when I went from class to class, circle to circle.  I was right beside the team I was helping, I was in the school community they were trying to transform.  Once I sent someone to go learn, and the school ended up on lock-down.  The teacher and I laughed afterwards, but the lessons learned from that experience won’t go unforgotten!

The journey from community to school-based tips:

  1. Things Change, honor that cycles happen.
  2. Build community in schools, don’t start at the top of the PBIS triangle, start at the bottom.
  3. Meet schools where they are.  What’s working well, what are they trying to accomplish.
  4. Get specific action items to those being trained.  Encourage people to try something new.
  5. Follow up, coach, get experience doing the work in a school setting.

SCVRJP is hosting an advanced school-based training on June 8 & 9 in River Falls, WI.  From now until July 31, I am available to do contracted trainings for SCVRJP.  On August 1st, I will be available as Circle Space Services, offering trainings for practitioners and school-based providers.

Restorative Justice Circles talking or transformation, using key elements for change.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (www.scvrjp.org) has been doing 100’s of Circles a year, since 2006.  In that time we have successfully placed topics in the center of the Circle.  We have consistently used a structure, based on the work of Kay Pranis (more posts referencing Kay).  The key elements of a Restorative Justice Circles, have been featured in two books by Kay, the Little Book of Circle Process and Peacemaking Circles from Crime to Community.

These Circle experience spans school settings, severe crime and significant loss, to staff meetings structured with Circle and our many Circles held to address public health issues in our community.  Highlighted in this post, are the rationale and reasons for using the key elements.  Talking Circles provide connection and potential to repair harm.  To transform the way people see themselves and others in connection to community and to transform behavior instantly, try the Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Elements, as described here.

A few of the commonly skipped or overlooked Key Elements:  Consensus to Values, 4 Stages.  A Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle is more than just using a talking piece.

Consensus to Values This aspect of Circle is more than just having people write on a paper plate.  This aspect is also designed to pull people together in a community that has decided how they will relate to each other.  The first steps of “community” if not geography, would be common interests.  A specific pass of the talking piece asking people to reflect on the values in the center, as part of the way of being together, deepens the connection before exploring topics, facing challenges or repairing harm.

4 Stages  (I am assuming you know these, there are many posts here highlighting) When we take time to do some questions, before the deeper conversation, or intention of the Circle, we are reminding people that we can make important connections by caring and learning about each other.  The simple content provides a context for common likes, it builds connection.  Some of my favorites lately have been to ask people about the next big accomplishment.  Fun results when I asked another training group to share 3 things about their shoes.

The final part when using the 4 stages, is to give opportunity for people in the Circle to identify their “take aways” or reflections on the experience.  This serves for people to identify quickly and immediately the benefit of the experience.  Like speaking to the Center in Circle promotes self – agency, so does speaking to your experience at the end of the Circle.  The use of the last phase helps us know we did good work together, it is another opportunity to allow people to share from the wise-centered part of who they are.  When doing Circles around trauma or emotionally heavy topics, it allows people to  prepare for returning to the un-structured everyday communication styles.

When you do more in Circle, than just employe a talking piece, you are creating space for safety.  Safety promotes vulnerability, vulnerability becomes a responsibility (tweet me) and a responsible keeper uses that for the greater good of  all in Circle.  Using the stages show respect and places the power, in each person and the Center of the Circle.

Key Elements Restorative Justice Circle

From “teacher” to “keeper”, for successful restorative justice circles.

There has been an amazing increase in school-based Restorative Justice Circles.  All across the United States, schools, districts, teachers and trainers have emerged.  There is an excellent blog at Edutopia, for schools implementing (by Dr Fania Davis).

Years of teaching teachers has provided experiences that if I want to leave skills where I train, I need to make the material relevant, useful, accessible to the students, and especially if I am training teachers.  In a recent webinar by the Zehr Institute, (you can view the webinar on the link), what I have learned was reinforced by those implementing school wide Restorative Practices.  The comments by Dr. Davis shares, about school culture, especially resonated.

One foundational key concept, is the relationship to Circle participants by the Circle Keeper. (click to tweet)

I use this image as a reminder.

shapes
(c)scvrjp

The square represents when people are on different sides.  Assumptions are made about the other “side”.  There is a win-lose, right wrong, above-below based on judgements of those on the opposite or different side.  The triangle represents power, at the very top, 1 person.  At the bottom, many people.  This is the typical structure in a classroom, or in a business or hierarchy.  The Circle, is where people connect to the center.  Spokes to the center, connected to the center, equal dignity and worth of each and every person.  The role of the keeper is to bring the best out, the ‘keeper’ in each person in the Circle.

Training provides tips and techniques for moving into the relationship dynamic of Circle.  Some teachers, will explain the move to students.  Those with deeper connections to relationships and stronger social-emotional skills are naturally able to move to this dynamic.  It takes practice, trust and open-ness to the concepts of Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles.

Mid-november Circle Forward should be released, and it is my understanding this is part of the book.  I am looking forward to another resource for school-based/community building circles!  Pre-order at Living Justice Press.

Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Advanced Training

Please join us in River Falls, Wisconsin in October.  On the 23rd and 24th, an advanced practice, School-Based Restorative Justice Circle Training will be held.  The two-day training will feature discussion, reflections and ideas for developing effective Keeping skills and for using Circles in a range of applications.  The 2nd will feature co-trainer Catherine Cranston, who have been using Circles since 2006.

Seats are limited, and the registration deadline is October 3.

Please see the flyer for more details and the registration form: Adv Circle Training Oct 2014

 

There is also a Circle Training at SCVRJP on October 9 & 10.  www.scvrjp.org.

If your school would like to host this training please contact me!

Peacemaking Circle Keeping 3 intentions, 3 activities, please.

I’ve been traveling and training and learning more and more what people are calling “Circle” and I am getting more and more concerned that we are missing some key elements.  Good work can be done in Circle.  Transformation, growth and self-discovery can be multiplied when we keep from a grounded center in the practice and elements of Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process.  The foundation from Kay Pranis and the Little Book of Circles.  I’ve got 3 key intentions to use in your Circle keeping and then 3 activities to help promote those intentions.  These crossover and support each other, they help support each other.

When Circle Keeping, your role is to guide the process, as a model.  That means modeling a “Circle Hierarchy”, which would be an oxymoron!  The structure of Circle is one of equal dignity and worth.  A concept I have worked hard at teaching teachers is a different skill-set than classroom teaching.  The intentions of your Circles work best when coming from this place of equality.

Circle Intentions

It is not easy, you let go of commenting, redirecting, controlling the Circle.  The use of equality means taking time to offer opportunities to learn how Circle works best (vs ‘teaching’ it).  This works, and I know this from 1,000’s of Circles and the stories from those that keep Circle using this intention.

Coming from a place of Values, is another Circle intention.  This means living them as keeper.  Modeling them for everyone in Circle.  In a casual conversation some keepers shared with me, how they ask the kid that won’t share to say more.  That is disrupting the equality, and not instilling the value of respect.

Those plates, or the co-created Center guidelines are the foundation and Center of Circle, the basis for reaching the center of each person in the Circle.  You can’t build trust in the Circle, if as keeper you are not doing the same.

Inclusion in Circle is an intention for allowing room for all perspectives.  Check your keeping, are you really doing this.  Physically, are you making sure everyone in the room is in the Circle.  Is your Circle as round as possible, so everyone is knee to knee, shoulder to shoulder?  Mentally, are you preparing your questions, have you put thought into your Circle.  Have you considered what everyone else will think about the questions, the topics.  Have you invited as many perspectives as possible to the Circle?  That is a form of inclusion – to have the community voice, the hurt, the harmed and the people impacted.

3 Circle Activities that promote values, equality, inclusion

1) Stand and have people take one step in when they share.  Have them do two snaps when they finish, and the Circle do 2 snaps.  This activity shows the turns, and cues the listeners in, while giving them a role (to snap).  They track the speaker (role modeling, practicing one at a time).  This also engages people to take courage to share, everyone is asked to step in, one at a time (equality).

2) Y Chart.  Draw a Y on a plate, then add a drawing of an eye, an ear and a heart.  Ask people to share what it might look like, sound like and feel like if the values in the Center were in the Circle.  Any round with the talking piece that includes a deeper discussion or reflection on the values is value added.

3)Consensus/Commitment “action”, when having people commit to do their best with the values in the Center, include a verbal cue, but then also an action.  A thumbs up, pass a pinky finger handshake, or putting your foot in the center for two taps.

Join me at the Advanced Keeper Training, encouraging use of Peacemaking Circles in Schools!  October 23 & 24, 2014.

Funding for Restorative Justice, 6 tips and suggestions, from a decade old RJ program.

I was recently asked (blog comment) for references on grants for Restorative Justice at both the State and National levels.  I thought others might appreciate the information I could share on obtaining and maintain Restorative Justice funding (it’s not just about the grants).  Funding comes in 3 streams for non-profits, if your Restorative Justice program is not a non-profit, but a program you can still use these tips.  

The 3 ways of income are 1)fee for service/contract 2)grants and 3)donations/public support.   It can be challenging to compete for grant dollars these days, cuts in government funding has created more competition for grants.  Raising credibility so that programs are required and fee for services can be set, takes authentic and genuine relationship building.  It requires understanding systems, and creating RESTORATIVE programs that address community needs.  Challenges in defining and marketing your work need to be overcome in order to get the individual donated dollar.  It is not easy and it takes a great deal of work.  The following tips can help guide your efforts in raising revenue for staff and programs.

The first tip . . . use foundational Restorative Justice approaches in your grant/funding relationships!  That means, respect, relationship and responsibility.  Call the agencies you are looking to apply to.  Be clear in what you intend to do.  Study up, don’t ask for $500,000 from an organization that makes $5,000 grants.  Think from the others point of view.  I’m very passionate about Restorative Justice, and it can be hard to understand rejections.  Make a follow-up call, send a thank you letter for the response and opportunity to apply.  Seems counter-intuitive to your time, yet, it sets you up for role modeling the values of Restorative Justice!  Spend time building relationships, be respectful.

When applying for grants be very clear on what you intend to do, and how you will create the outcomes, the grantor is looking for.  Design your work to the mission and vision of Restorative Justice.  Frame your work as addressing public health issues, and demonstrate outcomes, specific changes your work will provide.  Don’t change or stretch so far you are grasping for cash and not doing REAL restorative justice work.

#2 – set your value and create multiple ways to pay.  You want services to be accessible, and if your program does diversion, you want equity in access.  That means that if a person can’t afford services, you need to create alternate forms of payment.  At SCVRJP we offer community service for payment, and you can attend Circles as part of community service.  We have set fees for service based on choices the offender has in the system.  For example it is $75 to reinstate your drivers license, and our Underage Consumption Class is $60.  Consider all the factors in setting your fees, speak to your partners.  We raised our prices and lost a referral agency, that cost us $10,000!

#3 Give back, I call it “pro bono” or “tithing”  I feel there is a certain amount that SCVRJP should do.  Over the years we have had to narrow down what we can do “pro bono”, so I offer scholarships on a case by case basis, rather than listed on every training sign up form.  We used to have programs that didn’t have a related funding, now all programs are connected to a specific funding stream.  We DO NOT charge victims, and no RJ program should do that, however, we have grants and fundraisers around those aspects of programs!  You create a certain amount of social equity in strong relationships, reaching out to others and yet is is VERY, VERY necessary to live within your means and budget, be mindful of what you ‘give away’.

#4 Don’t go out of your area for $.  Contracts for SCVRJP typically come in the forms of training.  Be cautious when chasing down this funding stream.  I have seen community providers of Restorative Justice go and train at schools, without any experience of School-based Restorative Justice.  It is not just transferrable to teach teachers how to do a victim-offender conference.  It is necessary to work and train on what you have an expertise or understanding of.  Rushing ahead and training on Restorative Justice, regardless of your understanding and experience actually sets implementation back than moving it ahead.  For the greater good of the movement itself, find a credible and be credible in trainings and contracts.  It will help the field itself if contracts are delivered in a way that RESULTS happen.

#5 Budget wisely, use diverse leadership.  SCVRJP has been blessed, we have grown from a budget of $20,000 – – to $180,000.  It takes a great deal of dedicated work.  I literally put in the hours of a small business owner to make it work.  I put in the long hours, but I didn’t do it alone, consultation and support of board members has made SCVRJP successful.  Difficult decisions need to be made, you will be surprised what you can learn to do with less.  We had to cut the snacks, at Circle (yet I know fundamentally you serve food) we also cut our janitor services, and have to take turns cleaning our office.  You share in the responsibility of earning and spending money – from upper level board members to all staff knowing the financial status of your organization.

#6 Be fearless and real.  A few years ago, I told myself, when SCVRJP got into using our “reserve” funds, I was going to look for another job.  That MIGHT have been a full 3 years ago.  At this point I can’t imagine doing anything else, despite SCVRJP not have a specific account of “reserve funds”.  I don’t know what the future holds, I know it might look very different for SCVRJP.  A major funder has put us on notice, we are hopeful to create a new business plan.  I will keep applying the tips i’ve outlined.

If this blog post has been helpful . . . please consider a donation to SCVRJP!

 

Campus Restorative Justice as a community non-profit.

I feel in love with Restorative Justice in the late 90’s.  The first training left me a bit confused, maybe I should say “challenged”.  At that time, I was working from a place of ego than compassion.  I saw the families on my caseload as very different from me.  I was missing the basic humanity and the fact that we are all interconnected (click to tweet).  I put a wedge/distance between us because I hadn’t yet faced many of my own pains.  It is our suffering connects us the quickest (tweet).  Last night in Circle, as soon as someone opened up, “went there” and shared about a harm, the rest of the Circle members became more engaged, more open.  I feel far more effective as a “helper” these days than back in the late 90’s.  THANK YOU IIRP for bringing that first training session to town!  Thank you the State of Minnesota for implementing a Restorative Justice Planner!

It is not the 90’s anymore.  I’ve seen trends come in, tried to understand where they came from what was intended.  Some very good, like the expansion of Restorative Justice to college campus.  Some concerning for example, blueprint layouts for a prison called Restorative Justice (visiting areas designed to be circular).  Some changes are needed, as Restorative Justice learned, shifted, grew, it became more defined.  Teen Court is not Restorative Justice and we need to put each on a clear path and not co-mingle the two.

Campus programs, like community, school or prison programs of Restorative Justice can start from many places.  Sometimes a pressing need appears and Restorative Justice is brought in.  In some instances, the shift in addressing student misconduct is evaluated and a new way emerges, the new way selected is Restorative.  Restorative Justice in all areas (not just campus)  works best when designed for 3 areas.  The first to focus on the community culture over all, Circles to connect – reaffirm relationships, the second for at-risk places or where we need to rebuild relationships, and finally when a wrong-doing has occurred, Circles to repair-relationships.

The story of St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP)- and our local campus University of Wisconsin River Falls, has all of the elements I mentioned above.  SCVRJP has been called upon to come and facilitate for community building.  Specifically with Destination students – teaching the tool of Circle Keeping – to trip leaders.  Service learning has a component of reflection.  Circles make great containers for this type of deep reflection.  They especially help students cross-pollinate the good in each other.

SCVRJP and UWRF have worked side by side to address specific harms on campus.  We’ve taken referrals and worked with students who experienced conflict.  SCVRJP responded when a student died on campus, we held a Circle to support and grieve together.  Students use to pass into the criminal justice system from campus, mostly for underage consumption.  Now, the campus housing policy, sends them directly to SCVRJP.  Not only has this has brought fewer appearances in court, an officer was quoted in saying few incidents of passed out students on campus.

Our local non-profit provides students a service learning site, internships, we speak at campus programming.  After a few semesters off, I am back to teaching a class on campus.  Budget cuts and financial adjustments caused the break.

So now, SCVRJP is seeing more campuses represented at our training sessions!  Housing staff, student responsibility leaders from different campuses and programs are coming to the two-day Circle Training.  Many campuses are developing internal programs each designed to suit the needs of their campus.  We’ve provided training specifically to campus staff and are available to contract for training events.

The housing professionals from the ATCCHA schools who attended the October 28, 2011 professional development session at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls found the presentation by Kris Miner of the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Center to be professional, informative and enlightening.  Kris did an excellent job of sharing information not only on the tenants of restorative justice, but how it can be applied and utilized by student conduct administrators.  Staff in attendance felt that the presentation met the need they had to learn more about this topic.

Sandi Scott Duex, Director of Residence Life/Student Rights & Responsibilities University of Wisconsin – River Falls

Circle with diverse members, harmed, harmer and community role models.

What a fortunate place I have, having kept 1,000’s of Circles in a range of contexts.  I’ve also been fortunate to train a few hundred in the process, allowing me to hear stories back on what worked well, and what was a lesson.

It is soo important that Circles have a diverse mix of perspectives.  This takes time, in training youth or community volunteers about the dynamics of participating in Circle.  However, by training others, you yourself will be learning more about the fundamental belief systems that make Circles work.

I believe that Circles are more effective that a victim-offender conference.  For one they include others, this allows for additional perspectives to the harm, and for more perspectives on how to repair it.  Circles that include victim, offender and community are more aligned with core restorative philosophies.

The diversity in a Circle makes is rich in perspectives.  Once we hear other perspectives are minds stretched and a stretched mind never fully returns to the original.  I could also insert heart here.

I was observing a young person across from me.  It was a “disorderly conduct” referral.  She was listening to a story about a domestic violence.  The storyteller remembered a moment in a hospital bed, her brothers wanted to go beat the abuser, and she just wanted it all to stop.  A life changing moment was being shared.  The storyteller spoke of the dedication to not raising her daughters around violence.  I observed a very, very engaged listener across from me.  As she rubbed her very pregnant stomach, I had hope for the unborn child.

Circles without trained participants to hold the values, to role model the process, aren’t spaces for strong personal growth.  As a plant grows strong against a breeze, the community stories lean into the reality of the listener.  If your Circle only contains those that broke rules and an authority, you haven’t moved your paradigm quite far enough.  That model might be a start, however, it is repeating the framework that only addressing the wrongdoing will help.  It might, but if you really want to get to change beyond the incident, and get to change connected to values, use diversity in your Circles.

If you are local or near River Falls, Wisconsin, please come volunteer to learn more.  Monthly volunteer orientation sessions are held and Circle Keeper Training is free to volunteers.