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Righting a wrong to help heal

Maisie Ramsay, The Chaffee County Times Staff Writer
Friday, April 25, 2014

Buena Vista – The graffitied slurs are long gone from the walls of Buena Vista High School, but feelings about the vandalism have lingered.

BVHS students John Lopez and Sammi Jewell hold letters of apology from the vandals.

BVHS students John Lopez and Sammi Jewell hold letters of apology from the vandals.

“It has been forgotten, but maybe not forgiven,” Sammi Jewell, student body president, said.

Three students from rival Salida High School were responsible for the February incident. They are now taking responsibility for their actions through the Full Circle Restorative Justice program, which aims to repair harm by bringing together offenders and victims.

The program put one of the students responsible for the vandalism, 18-year-old Christian Wadsworth, in front of a crowd of Buena Vista High School students last week.

“It was nerve-racking,” Wadsworth said.

Wadsworth stood before an assembly of students whose school he vandalized, acknowledged his wrongdoing and apologized.

It was a tense moment, said BVHS junior John Lopez, who participated in Wadsworth’s restorative justice group.

“I really felt for Christian,” he said.

Lopez wasn’t sure how students would react to seeing Wadsworth, but they listened politely as three apologies were read: a letter from one of the vandals, a public letter by Ethan Coit, Salida High School student body vice president; and Wadsworth’s in-person apology.

“It was obviously sincere,” Lopez said.

As for Wadsworth, he said he “felt better” after apologizing. So did students, Jewell reported.

“I believe our community, Buena Vista High School, there is forgiveness there,” Jewell said.

She has a message for the parents and community members who weren’t there to watch Wadsworth apologize.

“I want our adult community members to know that we, as students, have forgiven and forgotten.”

With that, the high school can truly move on, Jewell said.

“Forgiveness is a choice … and it is probably the best gift you can give someone and the first step to moving on.”

The Chaffee County Times in Buena Vista is published by Arkansas Valley Publishing Co., the parent company of The Mountain Mail.

A Note From Merle Baranczyk - Editor of the Mountain Mail

It was not exactly a common student assembly.

We refer here to having one of the Salida High School students responsible for painting graffiti on the walls of Buena Vista High School in February appearing before the BVHS student body and apologizing for the action.

The three Salida students are taking responsibility for their actions through Full Circle Restorative Justice. With the approval of the courts, the program brings together victims of a crime with those who perpetrated the crime.

In this instance, one of the students responsible for the graffiti appeared before Buena Vista students to personally apologize.

It had to be one of the toughest things for an 18-year-old to do, to appear before the student body at a rival school acknowledging the wrong and apologizing.

It had to be a learning experience, or make that a tough learning experience, for the students who painted the graffiti. But there was also a message for students at both high schools.

This is just one example of the efforts of the restorative justice program, bringing together the two sides involved in criminal actions.

The program is an innovative way to drive home the point to those committing a crime of how their action impacts victims.

MJB

Because justice does not always mean punishment

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