If you have ever felt down after a disagreement with someone, you know that sadness and conflict can impact your life negatively. You simply don’t feel well when you cannot maintain healthy relationships. This is where Restorative Justice comes in for our students. This powerful program helps our students understand healthy interactions and relationships.
The fundamental premise of Restorative Justice Practices (RJP) is that “human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when people in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.”
There are two RJP tiers – “The Circle” which is the first step intervention piece and “The Conference” which is a non-punitive philosophical approach to discipline which repairs harm done, teaches accountability for offenses and how to move forward without shame.
The restorative circle structure conveys: Equality, Safety, Trust, Responsibility, Facilitation, Ownership and Community Connections. The circle establishes a strong and supportive relationship among students and teachers in the classroom, and promotes connectedness and facilitates the development of character which improves academic performance. The circle builds community, trust, respect for individual opinions, empathy, active listening and encourages problem solving. The circle also reduces bullying, conflict, and isolation, building strong peer-to-peer and student-adult relationships. It gives students a chance to tell their stories and to participate in the classroom setting in a way that is very different from the traditional classroom structure.
The circle integrates Common Core through Explicit Language Instruction. This includes attention to:
Accuracy of comprehension (listening and reading) and production (speaking and writing)
The demands of audience, task, purpose and discipline (discourse style and register)
Language choices and the development of meta-cognitive awareness – knowing how one thinks and learns.
Rich language knowledge is needed to engage in grade-level reading and writing, express thinking orally and in writing, and engage in social and academic conversations
SMUHSD integrated RJP circles into our classes in 2013-2014. We are seeing incredibly powerful results. The District team believes this is a program that has the power to change the lives of our students. To learn more about how RFP circles were integrated into our classrooms and to access a sample circle, click here.