It's called a "restorative circle," and it happens a lot at Plymouth Educational Center's 9th Grade Academy near Midtown. At this and other Detroit schools, these circles, part of a systematic program called restorative practices, are becoming a popular way to resolve conflicts among Detroit students.
"We're going to talk to one another, not at one another," Howard Webb Jr., a friendly but forceful facilitator, tells the students. "We're not yelling, we're not shouting."
So what happened? Webb asks the first girl. He rolls a rubber earth-ball to her, giving her the floor.
"I guess she didn't like me," says the ninth-grader, looking at the girl. "She wanted to fight me."
The ball rolls to that girl, who objects softly. "I didn't say I wanted to fight you."
Webb rolls the ball to the other two and back around. With each roll he poses questions: What were you thinking at the time? What have you thought about since? How could you have handled it differently?
About 20 minutes in, it's clear the truth doesn't travel well through cyberspace.
"How much of this is worth your education?" Webb challenges them. "Is it worth losing?"
Certainly not, academy director Kristin Woods tells the students: "It's okay to say, 'This might be a misunderstanding. Let's talk about it.'"
Talking things through with students, and getting them to say what they feel, is what makes circles and other restorative practices so effective, advocates say. Plymouth is one of 14 Detroit schools trained in the method, which proponents believe has the potential to help restore a whole city.
...."The aim of restorative practice is to build community, and then to manage conflict by repairing harm and restoring relationships," says McClendon, a former Prison Fellowship administrator. "People are happier, more productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in authority do things with them rather than to them or for them."