Restorative practices aims to heal wounds
By Tremaine Gardner and Izzy Anderson - Staff Reporters
As the student walks toward the front of the classroom, he knows he is in trouble. He in- sulted his classmate. He also knows what is coming next.
In this classroom they prac- tice Restorative Justice. He must apologize to his class- mate, and to the class for his behavior.
Then the restorative process can begin. Restorative Justice is a system of criminal justice that focuses on rehabilitation of of- fenders through reconciliation with victims and the commu- nity.
Through this process, the student had to reconcile with the victim (classmate) and community (classroom).
It can be with a simple apol- ogy, a discussion, or a class chore - something the class comes up with that they be-
lieve is fair. This practice is meant to
keep students in the class learning, and staying in a pos- itive relationship with each other and with the adults around them.
The students do not just get suspended or taken out of class.
In those cases, the problem is often still unresolved when they come back, Restorative Justice advocates said. By keeping the person in
school and working through the problem together with their community, they are able to work through these issues.
And everyone can benefit from practicing Restorative Justice in any social situa- tion, said Luckisha Phillips, a Highline education profes- sor.
"Criminal justice, social services, education, health care, it really should be used in all the major branches," she said.
Practices used in Restor- ative Justice are also used across many cultures, Phil- lips said.
"Historically and cultur- ally, a lot of different cul- tures have been using Re- storative Justices," she said. "An example would be Na- tive Americans, who histor- ically use peace circles."
A peace circle is rooted in indigenous culture, in which participants sit in a circle to consider a particular prob- lem or question.
A talking stick is often used. Whoever is holding said stick is allowed to talk while everyone else listens.
Phillips also added that this practice is aimed at mi- norities, since they are statis- tically suspended at a higher rate.
"Minorities have a differ- ent set of circumstances in school. Take today, Mexican children are worried about their families being deport- ed," she said. "African Amer- ican children worry about being profiled or shot by the police, not to mention the drugs and crime some must deal with in their own homes and communities.
"Many Native American children have a drug and al- cohol culture to overcome to graduate. Kids who deal with these issues come to school with many issues," she said. "Simply kicking them out for breaking the rules pushes them to the life they are try- ing to overcome."
But Restorative Justice isn't just used in a school set- ting, said Nicholas Bradford, a Washington resident and founder of the National Cen- ter for Restorative Justice.
"I think it's super import- ant to think that it's not just something we use when in a classroom with students, but it's in relationships [every- where]," Bradford said.
And while there are con- ferences, communication circles and techniques used within Restorative Justice, the core of the practice is about relationship, he said.
"A lot of the work is
around mindset," Bradford said. "Restorative Justices is how we define it, it's a rela- tional, personal conf lict - how can I be in relationship while I'm in conf lict?"
Another practice current- ly used nationwide is zero tolerance. "This is the prac- tice of suspending students for breaking certain rules immediately.
This has many kids miss- ing days of school and hurts graduation rates, due to how strict and unforgiving the policy is.
According to Phillips, "the zero-tolerance policy is not very effective in its prac- tice."
"If you break the rules, you are gone. That is not how you deal with adolescences -showing them from a young age there is no room to make a mistake [and that] they have to be perfect or they are gone," Phillips said.
"We start too often with young people, trying to fix them," Bradford said.
Young people don't need to be fixed, and many times the accountability actual- ly falls with the adult who might be unwilling to admit when they're wrong, he said.
"It's very common among adults, and people in Amer- ica in general I'd say, to have a hard time engaging in real accountability," Brad- ford said. "There is so much negativity around actual ac- countability for our actions, so that's challenging."
And simply communi- cating with students by see- ing eye-to-eye, and showing them that they can trust and have conversation with these adults is key, said Bradford.
"It's important ... to have opportunity to engage with the student in conversation," he said. "[What's] more pow- erful for young people, is having a trusted adult belong to the school."
There are also more op- portunities to learn about the practice of Restorative Justice coming up.
"We are the Future" is a youth-led conference that will be held on Feb. 28 in Se- attle, where you can attend workshops and further learn about the dynamics of con- f lict and relationship.
For more information, visit www.nationalcenter- forrestorativejustice.com/ events-page/.
With this new way of addressing conf lict being spread across the U.S., Brad- ford said that he is overall excited to see Restorative Justice being used regularly in the day-to-day.
"I'm really happy and pleased," Bradford said. "[I'm] excited about the movement that's happening across the country."