Attorney Emma Halpern began her work in restorative approaches as a project manager for this program. Said Halpern, “We began with a discipline model, using student facilitators for restorative practices, and have expanded to using teacher circles in classrooms, talking with administrators and staff about how to engage and discuss to create a culture of respect, and reaching out into the larger community through classrooms.”

“What we’re really [trying to achieve] is a culture shift, which takes a lot of thought and a lot of time,” she continued. “This is far more than a checklist of ‘Are you using circles? Have you had a restorative conversation today?’ What it takes is to have everybody in that school thinking differently about how they relate with each other and the community at large.”

Program benefits have included a more positive and collegial environment among staff, resulting in fewer staff absentee days, a higher level of student involvement in school life, and dramatic reductions in discipline referrals.

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