Restoring Community

This article recounts a great story in which a restorative circle was used to address conflict with about 20 girls in an alternative school in Maryland. Joe Burris of the Baltimore Sun writes:

It began as many confrontations between students do: with a hard stare between two passing strangers, according to Toni Holmes, a senior at an Ellicott City alternative school. One of the girls told a friend, "I don't like her." Snide remarks about clothing and appearance went back and forth, and then other girls chimed in.

Soon, unexplained yet simmering enmity exploded into a series of face-to-face confrontations among about 20 girls at the Homewood Center. Teachers got hurt preventing the arguments from becoming physical, and hallways were often deemed unsafe.

That's when Howard Community College's Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center stepped in. The group conducted two informal meetings with the girls — all of whom sat in a circle and took turns talking. Then center staff trained Homewood staff in its mediation and resolution practices.

The article includes interviews with a senior student involved in the circle and Kathryn Rockefeller, director of the HCC Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center. The piece notes:

Rockefeller said the center uses methods derived from the Bethlehem, Pa.-based International Institute for Restorative Practices, which encourages authority figures — teachers, supervisors and law enforcement — to involve their communities in creating solutions to problems rather than resorting to punitive measures.

"Restorative work is about if an incident has happened, it's helping people, especially juveniles, to recognize that the harm they caused has an effect on people," said Rockefeller. She added that the method includes asking questions such as "Who was harmed by your actions?"

Staff at the alternative school could tell the practices were really making an impact when students requested another circle to resolve conflicts that arose again.

The full story can be found at the following link:

HCC's Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center Diffuses School Problems - baltimoresun.com.