District 49 staff gathered at Vista Ridge High School March 10 for training on restorative practices. This is the first training available for staff, who will be early adopters in implementing restorative conversations and circles. The course is part of the BRIGHT Initiative, or Building Restorative Interventions Growing Honorable Traditions. District 49 was awarded a 5-year, $1.5 million grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity, which will allow the district to improve social-emotional support through the implementation of restorative practices.
Restorative practices focus on building, maintaining and repairing relationships among all members of the school community. Unlike restorative juice, the goal of restorative practices is to provide a culture of empathy and acceptance, so that no damage will be done in the first place. It does not include the removal of discipline or consequences, but rather to restore relationships among the doer of the harm, and the student who received it. This can include peer mediation and restorative circles.
During the training, staff, including counselors and administrators, were provided an overview of restorative practices, led by Lea Holland, BRIGHT project manager. She was joined by Lee Wade, military student transition consultant, Kayla Maldonado, marketing & communications specialist, and Brian Green, online professional learning specialist. The training included video presentations, small group discussions, and activities that took place within circles.
Holland explained that the zero tolerant mindset lacks accountability. “We aren't teaching our students how their actions impact others, themselves and our community,” she said. “There are still consequences, but a learning moment needs to be attached to those consequences so that the behavior is changed.”
Holland explained that our students should learn from their mistakes, and not feel discarded. “Good people can make bad decisions in bad situations, so it is important to separate the deed from the doer.”
“As a parent, this is exciting,” said Sharon Smith, parent and District Accountability Advisory member. She explained that the training got her thinking about implementing these practices at home, so that she can support the culture of her student’s school, Skyview Middle School.