Coming together to share school-based Restorative Justice.

Colorado schools promote restorative justice with a school summit.

http://www.timescall.com/news_story.asp?ID=25029

The full article highlights aspects of the youth-led restorative justice work happening in Colorado schools.  More evidence rolls in on using the philosophy and approach to build community and respond to harm in a way that does not exclude students or interupt academics.

The power of relationships is at the heart of restorative work.  I recently posted a Facebook update, mentioning I was in a bad mood.

A response was posted:  “Does it help to know that whenever I have a day like that at school, I run a circle in my classroom the next day.”  I was happy to hear that and then this was posted: “My relationships with my students are fabulous this year – and a lot of that comes from circles. Thank you Kris!”

That did improve my mood.  The response came from someone 1,000 miles and 5 states away.  We met 6 months ago when I was in her school providing training for the school and staff to implement Restorative Justice and Circles.

The brief comments on my Facebook wall, speak to the effectiveness and power of Circles.  The benefits for students are obvious when we retain them in school and help with their sense of belonging.  Research by the International Institute of Restorative Practices (http://www.safersanerschools.org/) revealed how these approaches help staff.

I’m excited and cautious to see the youth-led initiative.  It is complex to hold the philosophical approach of restorative justice and merge that with process.  Our youth today, are faced with challenges and skills that I can’t understand at 42 years old.  My biggest fear is that the youth-“leaders” and “facilitators” will be set apart from the “participants”.  I am all about promoting equality and it’s not always easy.

I was looking at a Circle of college students, I saw some skeptical looks and confusion.  It was the first day of class and after a year off, the word about my teaching style hadn’t reached this group.  I asked the group to keep an open mind.  I reminded them that they grew up in an enviornment of getting stars for doing good and detentions for doing bad.   I explained that it would take sometime to understand how to hold people accountable without using exclusion or punitive responses.

Congratulations to the Colorado school community and the group from New Orleans, I am confident your efforts will change lives!

If you are interested in contracting with St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program to provide on-site school trainings, please contact me at the office 715-425-1100.  SCVRJP also offers on-site training.