Punitive approaches that rely mainly on exclusionary practices to manage student behavior are being challenged by a process called “restorative practices,” a spin-off from restorative justice. Restorative practices have been for a long time and highlights the importance of building relationships, repairing harm and holding students accountable for repairing the harm they cause. “Circles” are being used as the means to improve school climate, culture and build a sense of community with less reliance on exclusionary practices such out of school suspension, expulsion, and in school suspension.
The idea is to use restorative circles in classrooms to set things right when there is conflict. The result is a calmer, more focused group of students that respect the community values, norms and relationships established in the classroom. Time spent with behavior management is reduced and students learn how to be responsible for their behavior.
The circle is explained in great detail by the International Institute for Restorative Practices, a graduate school devoted to restorative practices in Pennsylvania.
“The circle is a versatile restorative practice that can be used proactively, to develop relationships and build community or reactively, to respond to wrongdoing, conflicts and problems. Circles give people an opportunity to speak and listen to one another in an atmosphere of safety, decorum and equality. The circle process allows people to tell their stories and offer their own perspectives (Pranis, 2005).”
Restorative process is being implemented in school districts around the country. Locally, an innovative educator named Karen Sparks from Katy ISD is co-piloting restorative practices on her campus. Sparks has been an advocate for students and parents for 20-plus years.
If you’re already using restorative practices through circles, we’d like to hear from you.
To hear more about “restorative practices” and the use of “circles” for behavior improvement, consider attending our training on Oct. 20 from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. with Sparks at Harris County Department of Education, 6005 Westview Dr., Houston, Texas 77055. Register for “Show Me How to Do Circles,” www.hcde-texas.org/register (workshop number 11084).
Resources for Circles:
The International Institute for Restorative Practices, www.iirp.edu .
Pranis, K. (2005). The Little Book of Circle Processes. Intercourse, PA: Good Books.
About the Blogger:
Ecomet Burley, a 26-year administrator, is the leader of the Center for Safe and Secure Schools. Established in 1999, the Center provides school safety and security training for school districts in greater Harris County. Burley, the former superintendent of La Marque ISD, resides in Pearland with wife Frances, an elementary school principal. Education, Burley insists, is the primary and native language spoken in their home.