– Seitz Middle School Principal
In Dec. 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law that requires Michigan schools to consider using restorative practices as an alternative to zero-tolerance policies like suspension or expulsion, which have been shown to have damaging effects on certain student populations.
Most importantly, this legislation encourages the use of restorative practices as the first consideration to remediate offenses such as interpersonal conflicts, bullying, verbal and physical conflicts, theft, damage to property, class disruption, harassment and cyber-bullying.
In addition, the revised State Student Code of Conduct, as well as the new legislation, indicates that school districts and school boards shall consider using Restorative Practices as an alternative to suspension.
The use of Restorative Practices will keep more students in the learning environment, while at the same time help to solve problems and repair harm.
According to the International Institute of Restorative Practice (IIRP), Restorative Practice (RP) is an approach to addressing conflict and misconduct that focuses on healing rather than punishment.
RP assumes that misconduct and conflict injure those directly involved (victims and offenders) as well as the broader community to which they belong. Rather than relying on punishment, RP expects those who cause injuries to make things right with those they have harmed and with their community.
Its foundational principles of respect, accountability, healing, and empathy speak to fundamental human values and ethics.
Restorative practice is a social science that studies how to build social capital and achieve social discipline through participatory learning and decision-making.
The use of restorative practices helps to:
- reduce crime, violence and bullying
- improve human behavior
- strengthen civil society
- provide effective leadership
- restore relationships
- repair harm
A circle is a flexible restorative practice that can be used proactively, to develop relationships and build community or reactively, to respond to wrongdoing, conflicts and problems.
Circles give people an opportunity to speak and listen to one another in an atmosphere of safety, dignity and equality. The circle process allows people to tell their stories and offer their own perspectives.
The circle has a wide variety of purposes: conflict resolution, healing, support, decision making, information exchange and relationship development. Circles offer an alternative to contemporary meeting processes that often rely on hierarchy, win-lose positioning and argument.
SEITZ MIDDLE SCHOOL
Staff received Restorative practice training the day before Thanksgiving break. Included were teachers, district bus drivers, an administrative assistant and lunchroom personnel. We will also have another professional development day in January.
The aim of our training is to learn how to develop community and to manage conflict and tensions by repairing harm and restoring relationships.
Day 1: Introduction to Restorative Practices – Training focuses on the key concepts of Restorative Practices and how they are used to build strong, healthy relationships, resolve challenges and build social capital. The concepts involve reflection and awareness of one’s self and one’s practice.
Day 2: Using Circles Effectively – Applies the fundamental processes of Restorative Practices and enables participants to practice the techniques, including how to optimally utilize circles in any setting.