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Restorative justice: From principles to practice

November 16, 2009

For those of you who might be reading this with a healthy degree of skepticism I can tell you that I was able to use restorative justice principles in a very practical way days after Alana & Teresa visited the school. Four IPS students had crossed the boundaries of acceptable behaviour when playing a spirited tag-like game in PE. There was some name calling and pushing involved in the heat of the moment and one student felt especially picked-on by the others. Engaging the students in a restorative justice “circle of accountability” discussion meant asking each student involved in the incident the following questions: (1) What happened?; (2) What were you thinking an feeling at the time?; (3) What have you been thinking and feeling since?; (4) Who else has been affected?; (5) What needs to happen to put things right; and (6) What have you learned or what could you do differently in the future?

In responding to these scripted questions I was surprised by the level of engagement each student brought to reflecting on a 30-second incident that—not 10-minutes earlier—had been the root of unbridled, emotional, in-the-moment conflict between them. It was really quite remarkable, but it came at a cost. To debrief the incident through a restorative justice lens took over an hour.

It was time worth spent, however, because what came out of the exercise came an opportunity for students to develop a level of emotional literacy and self-awareness that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise.

Read the whole entry.


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