What could restorative practices look like across a whole school district? Read about the vision and recommendations in this report prepared for City Schools by the Open Society Institute – Baltimore (and see also this this brief summary).
A restorative circle is a popular approach for building healthy relationships and addressing conflict. This video, produced by Wide Angle Youth Media and Open Society Institute, shows what restorative circles look like in schools.
Positive relationships are a big part of healthy school environments. When students, staff, and all members of school communities value and respect one another, then students are empowered to express themselves, share their ideas, and explore their interests. This is key to City Schools' focus on the wholeness of students, and to our commitment to supporting students so they can pursue their passions and reach their potential.
Restorative practices are one way that City Schools builds healthy school communities. This set of tools and strategies draws on the belief that open, respectful communication helps reduce conflict. And, when conflict does occur, restorative practices encourage students to focus on the harm caused and on ways to repair relationships.
What students and parents will see
A school that uses restorative practices incorporates relationship building and healthy communication between all members of the school community throughout the day. Depending on whether you're at a high school or elementary school, you might see
- Better communication among students as well as between students and staff
- Students coming together in a circle for discussions led by a peer or a teacher, giving group members an opportunity to get to know one another and build a sense of community
- Classroom lessons that let students use their voice and work in groups
- Response to negative behavior that focuses on how the people involved were affected, instead of the rules that were broken
A restorative practices example
Denise, an 8th-grade student, was caught spreading rumors about a classmate, Tammy. In a school using traditional disciplinary measures, Denise may be excluded from school activities and staff may meet with her parents to discuss the behavior.
With restorative practices, staff members talk with Tammy to learn how she would like the situation to be addressed. They then work with Denise and Tammy to come up with a plan that repairs the damage done to Tammy and helps Denise understand the harm that her actions caused. Much of the process involves helping Tammy and Denise communicate their thoughts respectfully and productively.
This graphic, created by the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, and the Advancement Project, illustrates another example of how restorative practices and traditional disciplinary measures produces very different results.
Restorative practices districtwide
A number of schools in Baltimore have implemented restorative practices and have seen positive change in relationships and school climate. Because restorative practices work, and because City Schools is committed to providing staff with opportunities to grow as professionals who successfully support students, the district has partnered with the Open Society Institute to make sure every staff member learns how to use restorative practices over the next five years. The goal is for every school to use these strategies regularly, so that every student has what he or she needs to succeed.
Read more about the promise of restorative practices and what the approach could like in a districtwide implementation, in this report from OSI prepared for City Schools .For more information about restorative practices in City Schools, please email Erik Bandzak (Coordinator, Prevention and Intervention Services).