Most simply put, restorative justice in schools is about building and repairing relationships. The practice of proactively convening community building circles gives students a voice in their classroom and school community. Caring and competent teachers, other adults or staff from Resolve (Center for Dispute Resolution and Restorative Justice) facilitate dialogue using prompts and in ways that support the development of secure and respectful relationships while enhancing the sense of community.
In the event of person to person conflict or harm, hurtful classroom disruptions, or broken promises or behavior agreements, responsive circles are convened to make things right, process grief, or de-brief a violent, harmful or other hurtful circumstance. Whatever the case may be, circles are an important process as they communicate some of the essential values and principles of restorative justice: giving people a voice, equality, respect, relationship, collaboration in problem solving.
According to Raphi Kunkle, Director of Education at Resolve, “Implementing proactive community building circles are the first place to start for schools interested in high impact restorative justice practices for a couple of reasons: 1) You can’t ‘restore’ relationships and community if they never existed in the first place, and 2) Many of the restorative processes used to create meaningful accountability for situations in which there has been significant harm utilize a circle process, so it is helpful if students are already familiar and comfortable with the concept .”
Some of the area schools currently implementing community and restorative circles either as a stand-alone practice or as integrated into advisory programs are:
Phoenix High School
Talent Middle School
To learn more about restorative justice practices as a way to be “trauma-wise” and “trauma-informed” at your school, please contact Raphi Kunkel at email@example.com or call Resolve at 541-770-2468.