Contributors: Bailey Ellis-Wiard, Nicole Piete, Kim Angelina Stefani, Steph Hickman, Sam Krieger
What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative justice is taking responsibility for your actions that have harmed someone else. Instead of punishment the offender gets more involved with the victims or the families of the victims and learn to understand the harms they have caused.This is a great alternative in the juvenile justice system because it makes kids and teenagers learn the consequences of their actions rather than just be punished. Restorative justice in schools provides an alternative to zero-tolerance policies.
The Alarming Facts:
- It costs an average of $60,000 annually to incarcerate a youth in the Juvenile Justice System and $10,000 per student to keep them in the public educational system. We need to encourage more tax-payers and voters to do the math.
- 95% of out-of-school suspensions are for non-violent misbehavior such as being disruptive, acting disrespectfully, tardiness, profanity, dress code violation
- African American students are 3 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers
- Suspended students are more likely to drop out and/or become involved in the juvenile justice system.
How can students benefit from restorative justice?
Restorative Justice Programs allows students to enter into a safe environment and communicate. RJ isn’t necessarily for troubled students; it can also act as a preventive measure to avoid conflict. When conflict does occur, the practice helps build and maintain trusting relationships with adults, and gives students a voice to be heard. Restorative Justice practices give students life skills for conflict resolution as students continue to use the exercises at home and in the workplace.
The students that are being pushed out are the ones who need help the most. Trained staff and students are able to mediate and facilitate dialogue between students, teachers, and other staff members.
Restorative Justice Practices that are available:
Circles- Occur in group settings to build empathy and good communication.
Restorative Inquiry- Typically done one-on-one. Talk about behavior or incident that occurred without blame or judgement. Questions related to the behavior or incident are asked to discuss who was affected and what needs to happen to make things right.
Mediation– A trained, neutral party helps disputing parties identify the problem and arrive at a mutually agreeable approach to resolving the dispute.
Dialogue- A more pragmatic approach. Involving person who did the harming, the one/s that were harmed, supporters for both parties, and a trained facilitator. Each party reports what happened. They then collectively decided on how to repair relationship and minimize further problems. Agreements are recorded, signed and followed-up on.
How does restorative justice work in the Community?
Restorative practices rely on building a web of relationships throughout the school community, among administrators, teachers, staff, school resource officers, students, family, and community organizations. This community supports students and adults in making responsible decisions and holds us accountable for misbehavior. Students are able to create a supportive school environment.
Along with the support students can also be involved in community service as part of their discipline. Restorative justice practices that are learned in school can be applied and beneficial to their lives.
Our Goals for the project:
- To improve our own understanding of restorative justice and apply the practices to our lives.
- To gather data for Resolutions Northwest to help determine which schools are open to and in need of restorative practices.
- To help raise awareness of the benefits of restorative justice programs in schools.
- To help raise awareness of the disproportionate number of students of color affected by push-out.
- To gain a deeper understanding of restorative justice and conducting surveys to benefit Resolution Northwest and Portland Public Schools.
Who we worked with:
Their mission is “committed to strengthening personal and community
responsibility by providing constructive conflict resolution services and education.”
- Resolutions Northwest
1827 NE 44th Ave, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213
503-595-4890 • resolutionsnorthwest.org
In working with Resolutions Northwest, our group helped in conducting research.The organization has a new contract with Portland Public Schools, so they are attempting to figure out which schools have the most need and desire for RJ training, and were interested in conducting some community assessments to help them decide. We attended two events and surveyed attendees about their understanding of restorative justice and if they have been impacted by suspensions or expulsions.
Events that we attended:
- Race Talks May 13th 2014:
- The Race Talks theme for the month of May was the School to Prison Pipeline. Panelists discussed the ways that they have seen exclusionary discipline correlate to youth in the prison system. As an alternative, restorative justice practices were discussed. After panelists presented and took questions, each table had the opportunity to engage in a discussion about their experiences with discipline in schools. Over and over it was emphasized that treating children as criminals and labeling them as “repeat offenders” hurts the trusting relationship between students and teachers, and using restorative justice allows students to see the effect of their actions on others and make amends.
- Restorative Practices and Racial Equity in Our Schools. May 15, 2014
o An evening forum featuring a panel discussion, Q&A and facilitated audience dialogues. The panel consisted of individuals who have worked with restorative justice programs and they were asked questions by two interviewees and then answered questions asked by the audience. After the Q&A portion, each table had a facilitated dialogue about their experience, knowledge or lack thereof, concerns, new learnings, of restorative justice.
Visit http://www.resolutionsnorthwest.org/volunteer_donate_connect to learn how you can get involved.
Other ways to get involved include finding out about disciplinary practices in your own schools as a parent or student. As a teacher, learning about restorative justice and doing a training in the practice through Resolutions Northwest, or recommending it to administrators as a successful alternative to exclusionary discipline.