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Restorative Schools

Restorative practices in schools handle problems and conflict with a focus on repairing harm rather than emphasizing punishment AND reintegration rather than isolation.

Restorative Schools Program

In 2020, FCRJ was one of five organizations to awarded funding from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline. With these funds, the Restorative Schools Program was launched. Restorative Schools staff and facilitators use restorative practices in schools to reduce the impact of suspensions, expulsions, truancy and in general, punishment-based paradigms that feed the prison pipeline. As the only rural organization to receive this funding, the Full Circle Restorative Justice, Restorative Schools Program offers important insights toward policy statewide. The Restorative Schools Program currently includes: 

  • Direct services for any school in Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, and Park counties that need help addressing difficult in-school behaviors and conflicts including a Rapid Response capability for high-impact situations.  
  • Development and implementation of restorative practices for prevention and intervention that includes teacher, student and administrator trainings.
  • Standing weekly office hours with the Restorative Schools Coordinator and Facilitator. 
  • Advocacy, training, and guidance for educators, students, or community members interested in developing restorative justice practices at their schools.   

How do restorative justice practices work?

Full Circle Restorative Justice practitioners use restorative justice practices to help schools address patterns of behavior that are causing harm or disruption to the learning environment.

The restorative process spans from informal “circles” that teachers may choose to hold during class, to a structured conversation called a “conference” with students, parents, and school staff that may be integrated into existing disciplinary structures.

A restorative approach does not excuse or ignore behavior that has caused harm. It is fundamentally a different approach to addressing harm and conflict. When punishment is the focus, accountability and growth can and often do take a back seat. A restorative framework views mistakes or conflict as valuable opportunities to learn, grow, and strengthen social and emotional skills. Particularly with students, restorative practices provide effective tools to facilitate personal growth, leadership, and positive development.

What can restorative school programming help address?

·        Bullying - including groups and social media

·        Truancy or disengagement with school

·        Conflicts, including physical altercations

·        Reintegration after suspension or significant break from school

·        Building opportunities for student/peer leadership and connection

·         Practicing conflict resolution strategies

 

Connection activity with students

Restorative processes: Circles versus Conferences

Circle 

A classroom or group of students can use a circle to “check in”, set expectations, recognize fun or helpful peer experiences and share feelings about the school day. Teachers and students can be trained to use techniques to encourage others to speak openly, honestly, and with respect – this is social and emotional learning. The circle structure can be adapted to a wide range of needs - everything from setting ground rules, defining agreements and values, to addressing disruptive behavior, or processing a difficult event.   

Restorative Conference

This process is used for more impactful incidents, or reoccurring patterns of behavior. The conference is a facilitated conversation that is confidential and voluntary with two main parts. First, the person who caused harm must listen as the impacted people describe what they have experienced, and the person who caused harm is given a chance to speak about how they will be accountable for these actions. The second part of the conversation is focused on helping the impacted people and the person who
caused harm agree on a plan that can make things right as much as possible and work to prevent further incidents. This will often include a written agreement that may also be tied to the school’s “traditional” disciplinary measures.   

Before the restorative conference, we hold separate confidential meetings with each of the involved parties so we can get everyone's input about what happened and why, as well as ideas to repair the harm. For example, a bullying incident will require separate conversations with the families of each student involved, as well as any teachers or staff who were directly impacted. 

How to Participate

If your child has been invited to participate in a restorative conference, you may be asked to help them complete an impact or accountability statement, which will be used to help plan the conference. 

Participation in this process is completely voluntary and can be ended at any time. The restorative approach means that students may participate only if they have demonstrated willingness to be accountable and work to repair the harm during the preparation meeting. Everyone who participates must commit to remaining respectful, following the guidelines established together with the help of the facilitator, and committing to confidentiality.

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Justice does not always mean punishment

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