Hurt people hurt other people. What can school communities do to heal the wounds in their environment and help students and families overcome differences? The answer lies in Restorative Practices. Restorative practices focuses on repairing, restoring, and strengthening relationships to make whole where conflict or trauma once resided. Restorative practice is not a one off or singular event, it is a process which mindsets and beliefs are challenged and changed.
When I first heard of Restorative Practices, I received it as just another mandate and way to experiment with our students. However, I have observed first hand how it changed my school’s culture and climate and removed us from ranking on the persistently most dangerous list to a school with a stronger climate and increased attendance. Restorative practices is a social science teaching individuals how to shift from a punitive and consequence driven approach to a reflective and community restoring approach. Students learn to speak with each other and repair the harm that was caused. Effective restorative practices models see a rise in restorative circles and a decrease in fights and conflict. Conflict will happen but students and families learn the tools to navigate them and decrease the frequency in which conflict happens. I had students come to me during lunch shifts and ask “Can we have a circle because I’m not trying to fight?” In a time of conflict and uneasiness, peace is necessary for the healing of communities so that ultimately students can learn and feel safe.

Anthony Peña
Restorative Practice Trainer
Manager of Schools Operations & Supports