Then we let the student try to answer the question about who had been affected. It’s easy to say “you” or “me” in that situation, but with some prompting it also came out that the classmates (facing an unfair advantage) and the school community (living with an atmosphere of fraud) are also negatively impacted by cheating. And what needs to happen to make it right? Well, their previous semester grades both dropped by one letter without the extra credit. These changes to their transcripts need to be sent to colleges where they’ve applied. Their parents need to know what happened. Other teachers who weren’t aware of cheating in their classes need to be told the truth and given apologies. But these answers didn’t come from me.
In many situations where the student has done or is doing the wrong thing — which can be discipline situations like this one, or ongoing low academic performance, or any number of other teenage problems — the adults in the room often dominate the conversation. The more adults, the worse it gets. I’ve been in Student Success Team (SST) meetings where the student hardly says a word. Everyone wants to help, but we don’t really know how.
Restorative Justice feels very different. We give space for the student to think and respond. We demand answers that are honest and satisfying to those who have been wronged. And, in the end, we actually resolve the problem.