Restorative Practices at LCVI

Schools within Trillium Lakelands District School Board believe that the problems and conflicts within our school communities are best solved by those who are directly involved.  Our goal is to actively engage our students and allow them to take a greater responsibility for the actions and activities within their school communities.  We believe that Restorative Practices are a significant tool to reach this goal because students are given a voice.

Restorative Practices:

  • Build and nurture relationships
  • Repair harm done to relationships through inappropriate behaviours
  • Consider everybody’s needs in the process
  • Help those involved take responsibility for behaviours
  • Encourage accountability for those behaviours (actions)
  • Develop emotional literacy by providing a safe forum for people to express difficult emotions

Restorative Practices build a sense of community in an increasingly disconnected world.  Students who are connected to each other are less likely to harm each other with words or actions.

The overall goal of implementing restorative practices at Trillium Lakelands District School Board is three-fold;

1. keep students in school (reduce suspensions, expulsions),

2. keep students in class (reduce office referrals),

3. Keep students coming to school (engage kids in their school community to decrease truancy).

Restorative Practices is a system of thought which believes that simple punishment does not work.  Instead, through Restorative Practices, people are held accountable for their actions by involving them with face-to-face encounters with those they are in conflict with or have harmed.

The principles of restorative justice are:

Respect—among all participants in a restorative justice process.

Inclusiveness—consensus and full participation of those affected by the incident.

Accountability—the person responsible for the harm takes responsibility for his/her harmful behaviour.

Reparation—restorative consequences that repair the harm, determined through consensus.

Restoration—through this process, the needs of the person responsible for the harm and the community are addressed.

Research is showing that when restorative practices are implemented within the school community there are very positive outcomes for everyone involved including increased empathy, respect, honesty, acceptance, responsibility, and accountability as well as decreased re-occurrences of conflict and offenses.

Restorative Practices focus on explicitly teaching, modeling and practicing the following attitudes and skills:

  • Kindness
  • Empathy
  • Forgiveness
  • Restoring relationships
  • Active listening
  • Emotional Literacy

“Restorative Practices: It’s about holding people accountable and repairing harm, not assigning punishment.”

Traditionally the approach to conflict in schools has been to ask:

  • What happened?
  • Who is to blame?
  • What can we do to deter/punish so this will not happen again?

These questions do not take into account the needs of all parties involved. Nor do they promote reparation of the harm that has been caused so the people involved may never be able to have an open trusting relationship with each other again.

Punishment, while appropriate in some cases, causes the offender to look for ways to avoid rather than looking for ways to make things right.

At Trillium Lakelands District School Board we are using Restorative questions to look at the challenge of conflict from a different angle. We ask:

What happened?
What were you thinking at the time?
What have you thought about since?
Who has been affected by what you have done? In what way?
What do you think needs to be done to put things right?

This approach is based on principle that people need to take responsibility for the impact of their behaviour on other people and that the consequences of harmful behaviour mean that relationships are damaged and people get disconnected.

Restorative responses are focused on healing the disconnection between people wherever possible while still holding the offender accountable for his/her actions. They even go a step further and require the offender to find a way to make reparations for their actions.

Research is showing that offenses that are handled with a focus on reparation of harm and the restoration of relationships lead to decreased re-occurrence of offenses, increased empathy within the school community and an increased sense of connection between the members of the school community.

Restorative Practices: They teach life skills

An important restorative belief is that the people best placed to resolve a conflict or a problem are the people involved, and that imposed solutions are less effective, less educative and possibly less likely to be honoured. In order to engage in a restorative approach to conflict and challenging behaviour people need certain attitudes and skills such as:

A willingness to listen to others’ perspectives on a situation and suspend the notion that there is only one way of looking at something. An ability to listen to the feelings and needs behind others’ words, especially if these words are offensive, hurtful or accusatory. An ability to be in touch with one’s own feelings and needs so that these can be expressed in a way that gets heard and understood by others. A commitment to giving everyone a voice and to respecting the contributions made even though this is a time consuming process. A belief that hearing all sides is a worthwhile and ultimately a time saving approach as people gradually learn these processes for themselves.

These are attitudes and skills that will be useful for the rest of the student’s life. In the workplace, in the family or in the community these are all skills that create a better world for everybody.

Restorative Practices: Being Proactive

Classroom Circles/Meetings are likely the most proactive structure that restorative practices provide. Teachers who implement classroom circles find that the students in their classroom become a tighter knit community that demonstrate empathy and caring for all members of the community. Students who feel connected to their peers and teachers are less likely to cause harm to another individual.

Classroom circles are used by teachers on a regular basis they can be used for the following:

• Team / Community building

• Planning

• Problem Solving

• Teachable moments

• Sensitive issues

• Check in/check out

• Name games/Mixing up games

• Sentences endings

• Academic

• No-blame conferencing

Using circles creates a classroom where kids feel safe & connected to one another. They provide opportunities for inclusiveness, a supportive climate, equity & democracy. When the circle discussion concerns a specific incident the focus is usually on having the broader student community have an opportunity to share how this affects them.

“Circles are a form of participatory democracy.” ~ Kay Pranis