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The use of restorative justice practices in a school community traumatized by an incident of planned school violence: A case study.

Mateer, Susan Caro
June 4, 2015

Source: (2010) Dissertation. Colorado State University. Fort Collins, Colorado.

In 2001, less than two years after the Columbine High School shootings, a plan to copycat the Columbine shooting in a junior high school was interrupted by police. This was one of the first documented cases of interrupted school violence and the school where this was to occur was traumatized both by the fact that students were planning violence and the attention given to the event by the media. Even though no one was physically hurt, the school community was shocked and victimized. Eventually, three junior high school students reached plea agreement through the courts for their part in the incident and were sentenced to juvenile corrections. The school was left to pick up the pieces and attempt to understand how this could have happened.

This study uses a case study format and interviews with involved administrators, teachers and juvenile justice practitioners to document how the school community recovered from this event – restored and transformed. It looks at how the responses to the trauma were based in restorative justice values and beliefs and why restorative justice played such an important part in the recovery. The school used restorative justice practices that were uniquely suited to the event and responsive to the healing needs of the community at the time. These responses; the Tree, the community meeting, the Summit, the talking piece rock, the mascot statue; all served a purpose at the time and all were steeped in restorative values. In time, a traditional restorative justice conference was held in which two of the offending students responded to the concerns of the school and were welcomed back to the community.

Restorative justice has traditionally been about repairing the harm caused by crime. In this situation not only was the harm repaired, but the community used the pain created by the harm to create transformation, a transformation that resulted in a very good school becoming even better. What was transformational is that each of the actions taken by the school served not only to repair the harm caused by the event but served to raise the community to higher levels of safety, interdependence, respect, and inclusivity. This research documents how one school community used restorative practices to bring about transformational social justice. (author’s abstract)


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