Tom Cavanagh and Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice, Culture of Care in Schools, and Restorative Practices in Schools: Increased interest since Friday’s events
Interest in the work of restorative justice in schools has increased since the events of last Friday. Here is an outline of what I offer schools. Restorative Justice in Schools Educators and policymakers’ interest in Restorative Justice is growing as they learn that the results of zero tolerance policies are not working. In fact, the capacity of students and teachers to respond to wrongdoing and conflict in a nonviolent way is lacking. As a result, some schools have adopted restorative justice practices. However, these practices are generally used outside of the classroom. This training is unique in that it focuses on building the capacity of teachers and students to respond in a caring and peaceful way to wrongdoing and conflict in the classroom.
I have taken an interest in the Restorative Justice movement. I am well aware that it is not a panacea for society’s problems in criminal justice but it seems to me like a useful tool for community maintenance and building.
Mr. Cavanagh provides a service that teaches schools how to use restorative justice. This is a very positive step. As he remarks above, the no-tolerance policies of the last few years have been disasters. I’m not going to mince words about no-tolerance. it removed judgment and intelligence in discipline to avoid controversy. It is the job of administrator in schools to deal with controversy. Tossing out thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of students, is a disaster for the country and for them.
The field of criminal justice is full of difficulties. It is full of controversy and ridiculous coverage by the media. We need new ways of thinking. It’s time.
From around the web –
From the web site, Restorative Justice Online:
What is restorative justice?
Practices and programs reflecting restorative purposes will respond to crime by:
- identifying and taking steps to repair harm,
- involving all stakeholders, and
- transforming the traditional relationship between communities and their governments in responding to crime.
This paper provides a brief overview of restorative justice principles and addresses several key issues the focus group members identified that serve as a promising foundation from which teen courts can begin to move toward integrating more restorative justice-based practices within their programs. Key issues discussed include how youth courts can rethink the role of victims and the community within their programs, how youth courts can alter the way that their proceedings and practices are structured, and how youth courts can rethink and redefine sentencing options so that they are based on the restorative justice philosophy.
And finally, from the web site, And Yet It Moves:
And still the question remained… what exactly should I do about it? Obviously they lose the credit for the assignments, but what else? What is an appropriate punishment? This is where Restorative Justice provided an interesting and useful answer. My understanding of the process, limited to just my experience using it today, is that it centers around a series of questions that the transgressor tries to answer:
“What were you thinking about 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 you need to do to make things right?
What I like about this approach is that it puts the work of figuring out the situation and facing its full complexity on the transgressor. Instead of the authority figure giving a lecture or handing down a punishment that the student endures, they are forced to grind through the whole thing themselves. Of course, as they work on it I can set the bar higher if an answer isn’t satisfactory, and I did have to do that several times today.
For example, one student started out equivocating on the very first question, “What happened?” And instead of getting into an argument about it, I just said, “Well, some of the evidence I have indicates that you’ve done more than just use the posted solutions for ideas or reference.” I put the results of my diff on the table and then I let him try again at answering the question. So this is not a way that people get off the hook for what they’ve done.