Restoring Community

Photo by Pat Schneider for The Capital Times

Pat Schneider in The Capital Times reports on a project to implement restorative practices in a number of Madison, Wisconsin schools, with training provided by the YWCA.

Here are two excerpts from the article:

To hear the students at Sennett Middle School tell it, restorative practices hold a lot of potential for helping students do better in school and for building more positive relationships.

The Sennett students spoke of skills they developed while training as the “circle keepers” who run restorative circles at a brief ceremony on Dec. 18 marking their accomplishment. Training in the circle has helped them learn to work with each other, help others and take others’ opinions into account, students said. “It really got me thinking,” said one boy. “It makes me see who I want to be in life,” said eighth-grader Pierre Ruffin.

...

The restorative circles formed in Madison schools as part of the YWCA program have focused so far on resolving conflicts between students and staff or among students. They’ve also been used to help students deal with trauma, like the death of a student and the attempted suicide of another, school officials said.

While there isn’t much hard data yet on whether voluntary participation in the circles by students has decreased the kind of behavior that would lead to formal discipline, school officials are impressed with the program’s apparent effect on school climate, said Nancy Yoder, director of student services and alternative education for the Madison district.

“We’ve started to see a difference in the culture of schools and how kids thought about their own behavior and those around them,” Yoder said, adding that the district is looking for a way to begin to collect data on the effectiveness of this preventative measure.

The full story can be found here.

Patrice Vossekuil, director of IIRP Wisconsin, noted that Madison School District social worker, Lonna Stoltzfus, who is quoted in the article, attended basic restorative practices training offered by IIRP Wisconsin. Vossekuil writes, "I am pleased to see that [Stoltzfus] is succeeding in expanding her influence into district-wide activities and policies."

Stoltzfus writes to say in addition that, "Madison Metropolitan School District is beginning a small pilot, using restorative practices (Circles) alongside/in lieu of traditional discipline measures, in an effort to repair harm, strengthen relationships and community, and increase accountability, as well as to decrease the instructional time that is lost when we suspend students."

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