Schools and Restorative Processes were meant for each other.
Schools are very special communities of students, faculty and staff that spend significant amounts of time together. Schools, like any other community need to be able to handle both good and bad situations. There are negative incidents that happen every day in every school. Restorative Circles is a strategy for schools to use to ensure a safer, respectful community. It involves setting up a forum, a circle for dialogue that looks not at who is guilty, but at what harm has been caused. Restorative Circles focus on rebuilding relationships.
The Restorative Circles Program builds capacity in the school to resolve disputes and rule breaking behaviour; such as bullying, disrespect of teachers or staff members or other students, absenteeism, vandalism, threats and minor assaults and fights.
Restorative Circles are not a replacement for other sanctions, but are an additional tool to add to the list of strategies available to address inappropriate behaviour. Both staff and students appreciate the opportunity to sit down together to listen to each other, hear the other side of the story and how the behaviour is impacting on the community. Together the people in the conflict determine what is an appropriate response to repair the harm that has been done to individuals and the community as a whole. Students learn in a short time to be accountable, to take responsibility for their own behaviour and that they can repair the harm and be accepted back into the school as a positive and contributing member of the community.
The Restorative Circle Program begins with training for a group of selected staff and students to become Circle Facilitators, to learn the skills of helping individuals in conflict sit together to talk about what has happened. The training focuses on how to listen effectively, how to ask appropriate and helpful questions, and how to help the disputants come to an agreement about what needs to happen to repair harm.
After the training, there is a strategy to introduce Restorative Circles into the school culture, on a case by case basis.
Both those who have been injured and those who have caused the injury find that this way of resolving disputes ensures a more durable and meaningful consequence than simple punishment. Restorative Circles are also a valuable tool for helping students re-enter the school community following a suspension or even an expulsion.
Preferred Solutions has helped School Boards introduce and develop comprehensive Restorative Circle Programs as part of their Safe Schools initiatives.
To find out more about starting a Restorative Circle Program in your School, contact us.