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Creating a Culture of Care in Schools Using Restorative Practices

Cavanagh, Tom
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Paper presented at “New Frontiers in Restorative Justice: Advancing Theory and Practice”, Centre for Justice and Peace Development, Massey University at Albany, New Zealand, 2-5 December.

We live in a moment in time that is profoundly affected by the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999 and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In reaction to these tragic events and with a renewed focus on safety, schools in the United States and elsewhere have deepened their commitment to peacekeeping, based on stricter rules and harsher punishment, patterned after the punitive system of our courts. These get-tough policies include police presence in the schools, metal detectors, zero tolerance policies, student and locker searches, and drug and alcohol testing. As a result of these policies, we have criminalized our schools and put some students on a schoolhouse to jailhouse track. Dr. Wendy Drewery, Assistant Dean for Graduate Study in the School of Education at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, and her colleagues are leaders in New Zealand in implementing restorative justice practices in schools. Professor Drewery began her work in response to the overrepresentation of the Maori people in school suspensions. The “restorative practices” outlined in Professor Drewery’s work are currently being implemented as part of the Restorative Practices in Schools Project in schools in New Zealand. Because the theory I created in my dissertation study is based on the same theory as Dr. Drewery’s work, I will replicate my study in one or more of the New Zealand schools involved in her project. I am spending an academic year in the schools involved in the project as a Fulbright scholar to learn how these practices affect the culture of the schools. The purpose of this presentation is to present the highlights of a paper I will write outlining my original ethnographic study and the results of the replicated study to date. Abstract courtesy of the Centre for Justice and Peace Development, Massey University,


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