This August a new law takes effect requiring schools to consider restorative justice before imposing any long-term suspension or expulsion.  Further, the law creates a rebuttable presumption that students should stay in school.  This is a significant departure from Zero Tolerance that demanded suspension for any number of infractions. With spring break on their doorstep, schools don’t have much time to prepare administrators to comply with this law and learn about restorative justice.  Luckily, we have some trainings coming up that can help. When restorative justice philosophy, principles and practices are woven into school culture and operations, the process changes
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Last week I was honored and delighted to celebrate Governor Snyder’s signing of legislation that loosens Zero Tolerance chokehold on school discipline.  Under legislation sponsored by Representative Andy Schor and Senator Rick Jones, schools are now encouraged to consider restorative justice to address even the most severe discipline incidents that once resulted in mandatory suspension or expulsion.  In fact, Senator Jones’ amendment establishes a rebuttable presumption that students should stay in school, rather than be suspended or expelled for every offense except bringing a firearm to school. These bills haven’t gotten as much attention as the potential role-back of the
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I had lunch last week with a friend who asked me about my work.  I gave her my elevator speech explanation of Restorative Justice, and she replied: “I believe in it.  I just think you need a better name for it.” Boy, I couldn’t agree more.  I told her I’ve wracked my brain to think of a shorter, more direct word or phrase that fully encompasses the concept of mutual accountability, forgiveness and unity.  The closest English word I can think of is atone because it combines two words: at & one, and RJ is a process that brings people
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In the early 2000s, I had the privilege of working in schools as Restorative Justice Coordinator.  In that role, I deeply admired the children and youth who worked through their conflicts in the RJ Room.  I carry many of their faces and stories tenderly in my heart today. Now, I share their stories as I train a new generation of RJ Coordinators and Circle Facilitators.  Although my students are all grown up, episodes of middle school and high school turmoil like theirs play out in schools and communities throughout our world.  The need for restorative discipline anchored in a restorative
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Over the holidays, the Michigan legislature gave learning communities a great gift–a bi-partisan bill package that updates the Revised School Code (MCL 303.1310).  This legislation expands options dictated under zero tolerance measures.  Better still, it empowers schools to use more productive, developmental discipline that includes consideration of mitigating factors and an exploration of whether restorative justice practices could be used in addition to, or instead of, suspension or expulsion. PA 360-363 (originally known as HB 5618-5621) shift the discipline paradigm from zero tolerance’s punitive and exclusion-based assumptions.  In its place, the laws create a “rebuttable assumption” that long-term suspension (10
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Periodically, I will post an entry that includes links to articles and stories in the media that highlight restorative justice practices in school and in life.  Follow the links below to learn about how other communities are using restorative justice philosophy and practices and how it is affecting their communities. Education Week, October 16, 2012, Restorative Practices: Discipline but Different by Nirvi Shah.  Describes RJ practices in Baltimore, Syracuse, Chicago and other cities. From the New York Times, April 3, 2013, Opening Up, Students Transform a Vicious Circle by Patricia Leigh Brown.  This article examines RJ in Oakland Schools and
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When I say that restorative justice (RJ) favors healing over punishment, here’s what I mean. For misconduct, our traditional discipline system asks three basic questions: WHAT RULES HAVE BEEN BROKEN? WHO DID IT? WHAT DO THEY DESERVE?[1] Accountability is defined by legal consequences such as fines, community service, suspension, expulsion or incarceration.
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The biggest thing I want you to remember about restorative justice is this: It is a philosophy that just makes sense. Restorative justice is based on the assumption that when you hurt somebody, either intentionally or by mistake, you are responsible to heal the harm you caused[1] (as much as possible). This means it defines accountability, not as punishment but as being responsible to those you’ve affected[2] and working with and/or for their welfare. It’s like cleaning up your messes or holding up your end of the bargain.
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