It all began with the development of a strategic plan by the school board in June of 2017. The board set a goal of implementing a character program that worked jointly with our discipline and positive behavior programs.From this goal, the restorative program was adopted at the end of 2017.
In 2018, we were able to use grant funding to bring the Dean of Restorative Practices into our School Administration. We also have contracted with the Center for Restorative Programs in Monte Vista. We have a team member on site two days a week to help with the implementation process.
WHAT IS RESTORATIVE PRACTICE?
Inspired by indigenous values, restorative practice is a philosophy and a theory of justice that emphasizes bringing together everyone affected by wrong doing to address the needs and responsibilities and to heal the harm to relationships as much as possible.
Restorative practice is a philosophy that is being applied in multiple contexts nationwide and internationally. Though only about 40 years old, the restorative practice movement is rapidly expanding, with tens of thousands of initiatives worldwide. It is a tool not only used in schools, it includes families, workplaces, the justice system, global conflict, and as a tool to transform structural and historic harms.
Many people mistakenly assume restorative practice is solely a conflict resolution process that comes into play after harm has occurred. Although school-based restorative practice offers a more equitable and respectful alternative for dealing with disciplinary infractions, it is also a proactive strategy to create a culture of connectivity where all members of the community feel valued and thrive. Restorative practice is a profoundly relational practice.
RESTORATIVE RESPONSE TO HARM
Because our current system operates contrary to restorative principles, it is common for implementation of restorative practices to be misunderstood and face resistance. Despite this, restorative practice in its basic form is an intuitive concept for most people. In his seminal work, “Changing Lenses,” Howard Zehr examines the way in which we typically respond to crime and wrongdoing:
Our retributive criminal justice systems asks:
1. What rules or laws were broken?
2. Who broke them?
3. What do they deserve?
Whereas, restorative practice asks:
1. Who has been hurt?
2. What are their needs?
3. Who has the obligation to address the needs and put right the harm?
Stated another way, both the theory and practice of restorative practice emphasize the importance of:
1. Identifying the harm.
2. Involving all stakeholders to their desired comfort level.
3. True accountability—taking steps to repair the harm and address its causes to the degree possible.