Restorative Justice Program
Restorative Justice at Our School
I.S. 126 is committed to providing a safe and supportive learning environment for all members of our school community, who bring with them diverse abilities, interests, viewpoints, and family and cultural backgrounds. These differences can be a source of great energy and strength when members of the community value and respect one another. We use restorative practices to foster positive interpersonal and intergroup relations and to address inappropriate behavior when it occurs. This progressive approach to discipline changes the fundamental questions that are asked when a behavioral incident occurs. Instead of asking who is to blame and how those engaged in the misbehavior will be punished, a restorative approach asks four key questions: 1) What happened? 2) Who was harmed or affected by the behavior? 3) What needs to be done to make things right? 4)How can people behave differently in the future?
Restorative practices we use include restorative circles, peer mediation, community re-entry conferences, and formal restorative conferencing.
Community Building circles
Our restorative circle advisory program is a significant prevention and intervention strategy. The circle process enables a group to build relationships and establish understanding and trust, create a sense of community, learn how to make decisions together, develop agreements for the mutual good, resolve difficult issues, and address other issues as they arise. Students are the largest group of stakeholders in a school community and its greatest natural resource in creating and sustaining a safe and supportive school environment. Building community among students and between students and staff members is integral to creating a supportive and inclusive school culture. When students feel accepted, valued, respected, and included, they build a positive connection to school and foster resiliency. Community building circles focus on:
- Safety and Trust. Community members need a sense of safety and trust to connect with one another.
- Honor. Members interact with fairness and integrity and acknowledge their personal responsibility for their actions.
- Openness. Community members feel free to share their thoughts and feelings.
- Respect. To bond as a community, members must feel they are valued and respected as individuals, and they must respond respectfully to one another
- Empowerment. A sense of empowerment is a crucial element and a desired outcome of being a member of a community. Community support enables members to gain a new view of themselves and a new sense of confidence in their abilities.
A circle can also be used in response to a particular issue that affects the school community. When used as an intervention measure to address inappropriate student behavior, restorative circles empower community members to take responsibility for the well-being of others; prevent or deal with conflict before it escalates; address underlying factors that lead youth to engage in inappropriate behavior and build resiliency; increase the pro-social skills of participants, particularly those who have harmed others; and provide wrongdoers with the opportunity to be accountable to those they have harmed and enable them to repair the harm to the extent possible.
Inviting new students or community members to a circle to welcome them to the school is a great way to start building community. We want to welcome them so that we can make them feel at ease and learn what they need to thrive in the school. We also share what supports there are in place and which community memebers they can go to for support in specific circumstances.
The P.E.A.C.E Mediation Program helps students to understand how to positively resolve their conflicts through peer mediation. Peer mediators facilitates the negotiation process between conflicting parties so they can come to a mutually satisfactory resolution. Mediation recognizes that there is validity to conflicting points of view that disputants bring to the table and helps disputants work out a solution that meets both sets of needs. Disputants must choose to use mediation and must come to the process willingly. Mediation is not used where one individual has been victimized (for example, in cases of harassment or bullying) by another.
Community Re-entry Conferences
These conferences take place after the community member has been away or removed from the classroom or school. These are designed to address issues that caused the time away and allow stakeholders to empathically connect to one another’s perspectives, and collaborate on a path to resolution to ensure everyone is comfortable with the return.
Formal Restorative Conferences
A formal restorative conference brings together individuals who have acknowledged causing harm with those who have been harmed. Regardless of the circumstances, the mental and physical health, safety, and welfare of the individual who was harmed are of paramount importance. Both sides may bring supporters to the circle who have also been affected by the incident. The purpose of the conference is for the harm-doer and the harmed to understand each other’s perspective and come to a mutual agreement that will repair the harm as much as it is able to be repaired. A formal restorative conference may be used as an intervention in conjunction with a disciplinary response (e.g., a student participates in a formal restorative conference in conjunction with a teacher removal or a principal or superintendent suspension) or may be used as a disciplinary intervention to address misconduct that does not require teacher removal or suspension.
Restorative Justice Action Team
Our Restorative Justice Action Team (RJAT) is a diverse collaborative of school community stakeholders that seeks to engage the whole school community in growing Restorative Justice. We are focused on initiatives to promote a positive school climate and meet in the beginning of the year to discuss and cement our annual goals. The RJAT meets each month throughout the school year to develop programs related to the execution of goals, and to create and facilitate Restorative Justice initiatives. This multi-stakeholder approach ensures that the perspective of each stakeholder group is represented.
Restorative Justice Coordinator: Gina Angelillo
Restorative Justice Social Worker: George Lavezzary
Principal: Mr. Anguiera
Asst. Principal: Ms. O'Brien
Dean: Ms. Sharpe
Community School Director:
3 Student Representatives
2 Parent Representatives