Restoring Community

These articles were formerly posted on our Restorative Works website.

symposium participants“Good riddance to zero tolerance!” declared IIRP president John Bailie, Ph.D., opening the IIRP Symposium: Integrating School Climate Reform Efforts. At that, about 150 educators from across North America — superintendents, school climate and safety administrators, teachers, counselors and psychologists — cheered their approval.

They had come, along with a panel of six school climate reform leaders, to Bethlehem, PA, July 20-21, 2015, to explore how the wide array of programs created to replace zero tolerance could work together.

PPS staffThis school year, Pittsburgh, PA, Public Schools (PPS) are set to launch the largest restorative practices Whole-School Change program ever undertaken, with 22 elementary, middle and high schools participating.

The U.S. Department of Justice has provided $3 million of funding for the district’s Pursuing Equitable Restorative Communities (PERC) project. The grant will pay to implement the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) SaferSanerSchools Whole-School Change program, a comprehensive two-year school implementation model. It will also provide for the RAND Corporation to measure the effectiveness of restorative practices in the 22-school "treatment group" against a "control group" of 22 other schools in PPS that will not participate in the program.

Schools

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 10.17.26 AMThe US Department of Education launched its #RethinkDiscipline Campaign with an all-day kickoff on July 22. LA Unified School District's restorative justice efforts win White House applause. Rochester, NY, School District Superintendent Bolgen Vargas visited the White House to discuss restorative practices in school discipline.

Education Week’s Research Center issued a new report, "Social and emotional learning: Perspectives from America's schools," which shows, among other things, "a particularly large expansion in the use of restorative practices" over the past three years.

An EdWeek article by Evie Blad suggests, "Urban Districts Embrace Social-Emotional Learning." Plus, a New York Times Op Ed piece by David Bornstein argues that "Teaching Social Skills Improve Grades and Lives."

ASCD (the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) sees similarities and a need for connection between "whole child, social & emotional learning (SEL), character education and school climate."

Transformative-Practices-ConferenceCollege and high school students showed up to make their voices heard at a conference on restorative practices for New York City schools, in the Bronx, NY. Why? The students are hungry for learning. Mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds, they see their education as a way to liberty and freedom.

The college students were invited to “Transformative Practices & Restorative Justice Conference: A Celebration and Call to Action,” by their education professor at Lehman College, City University of New York (CUNY), David Fletcher, Ed.D. Together with 250 educators, school administrators and community representatives, Fletcher is building a community to implement restorative practices in NYC schools.

Students and teachers from Maine schools that are implementing the SaferSanerSchools Whole-School Change program as part of a 5-year RAND study speak about the positive impact in the classroom of circles and other informal restorative practices. These practices give everyone a chance to be heard.

One student says, "When we have circles, everybody gets to just let everything out that they're thinking and give an opinion so they feel like they have a voice in our school."

A teacher comments, "This has been the easiest year behaviorally I've ever had in my 20-something years of teaching."

Learn more about the IIRP's SaferSanerSchools program.

JirgaThe borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan are a dangerous and violent place. But it is here that a student of restorative justice, Ali Gohar, founder of Just Peace Initiatives, based in Peshawar, Pakistan, has worked to reinvigorate and reinvent traditional conflict resolution practices.

In this tribal region, inhabited largely by ethnic Pukhtoon, wrongdoing can spiral into cycles of vengeance. Family feuds can last for generations. For instance, nearly 60 years after the event, a man avenged his father’s murder by in turn killing the original murderer’s grandson. Revenge killings continued back and forth between the two families until a total of a dozen people were dead. Without the intervention of the jirga – a tribal council “organized by wise, respectable, greybeard elders whose decision is unanimous, acceptable to all community members” (Gohar, n.d.) – the cycle of violence would have continued. The jirga sent representatives to each family and convinced them to end the feud “for the sake of God” with no blood money exchanging hands (Lofton, 2015).

During the IIRP Europe 2015 Conference in Budapest, Hungary, Romanian social worker Izabella Kasza discussed her work with a displaced Roma population in the city of Cluj. The group of 300 families lives and works in poor conditions near the city's landfill.

Learn more about the project at Pata-Cluj, "an integrated approach to social inclusion."

PA_GRAPHIC_FINAL_600As the restorative practices social movement gathers steam in schools, justice, communities and beyond, practitioners, academics and advocates are looking for new ways to connect and work together to common purpose.

The Peace Alliance, a national grassroots advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., that promotes practical methods for reducing violence, transforming conflict and enhancing cooperation, sees as one of its functions to facilitate these cross connections.

Justice

The New York Times quotes Dr. Keith Jensen, co-author of a study showing young children have a sense of justice: "[G]iven a choice [toddlers] would rather restore things to help the victim than punish the perpetrator."

Law Street examines "How Can Restorative Justice Change the Criminal System?" illustrated with a number of embedded videos.

Restorative justice pioneer Howard Zehr was “roasted” during a celebration of the anniversary edition of his groundbreaking book, “Changing Lenses.”

Budapest-discussionThe first IIRP Europe Conference brought 160 people from 23 countries to Budapest, Hungary, on June 10-12, 2015. For three intense days, participants shared stories, practices and research on restorative practices in criminal justice, education, social services, the workplace, faith communities and other settings. They heard how restorative practices are overcoming centuries of distrust between the Roma people and others in Romania, reintegrating prison inmates back into society in Hungary and helping heal victims of sexual abuse in Ireland. In circle discussions, they brainstormed how restorative practices can improve civil society all over the world. Everyone left the conference inspired to take what they learned back home.

Each day began with plenary presentations, attended by all the participants, followed by a large selection of “breakout” sessions.

Schools

Across the U.S., schools are Minding the Discipline Gap in Education between white and minority students by turning to restorative practices: