Van Brunt Elementary and Middle School Faculty"There are no bullies in Horicon, only students who have made bad choices. Taking a positive and proactive approach to improve the school environment, the Horicon Van Brunt Elementary and Middle School has changed its approach when responding to students who have made bad choices--and reduced disciplinary referrals by over 60 percent since 2009."

This is the lead in of an article co-authored by Robert D. Rettmann and Patrice Vossekuil, IIRP's Wisconsin affiliate. The article originally appeared in the Journal of Safe Management of Disruptive and Assaultive Behavior in March, 2012. In it the authors discuss the use of restorative circles as well as a unique playground program:

For students in kindergarten through second grade, misconduct is addressed by staff assigned to playground “Walk and Talks” during recess. Here students have a chance to describe how their behavior affected others and how they can help repair a friendship or apologize to someone who has been hurt. Teachers report that these approaches have helped students develop a sense of empathy and respond to the feelings of others.

The school's assistant principal, Paul Heidemann, was "an eager early adopter of Restorative Practices":

“I always believed in discipline with dignity. Authors of offenses and victims need to work out their issues together so that they can understand how unkind words and unsafe physical behaviors impact each other and others.” Heidemann regularly uses restorative circles in his classroom and in disciplinary actions. “Circles provide a sense of belonging and community that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to achieve. Since we began using circles, students are much more eager to participate and even request that we ‘circle up’ when community issues arise” (Heidemann, personal communication).

Read the full article here.

IIRP will be conducting a 4-Day Institute on Basic Restorative Practices June 11 to 14 in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin at Moraine Park Technical College on 700 Gould St. For more information about this and other 4-Day Institutes, visit this page.

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