Restorative Practices are a framework for building community and for responding to challenging behavior through authentic dialogue, coming to understanding, and making things right.

The Center for Restorative Process

Whole Being Wellness and Restorative Practices for K-12 School

With the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in 1998, and subsequent research on toxic stress in childhood, many schools are adopting a trauma-informed, healing-centered approach as a way to recognize and appropriately respond to student behavior and academic performance that builds individual and collective resiliency, accountability and empathy.

Mindfulness training and Circles have emerged as core classroom practices in elementary schools. At Glenview Elementary School (Oakland, CA), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTr4v0eYigM, both practices are integrated into every classroom. Academic performance has improved as disciplinary issues have decreased. See also https://www.mindfulschools.org/resources/explore-mindful-resources/

Components of a restorative practices program for elementary school include

1) introducing children and educators to trauma-informed techniques and circles as part of the daily classroom routine to cultivate empathy, emotional self-regulation, and community; these daily circles build trust and fluency in social-emotional learning and self-regulation.

2) developing trauma-informed restorative practices, i.e. understanding disruptive behavior by first being curious about identifying underlying feelings and needs, and then responding with a circle based in compassion and accountability that addresses the needs and obligations of all stakeholders.

3) training upper grade students and designated staff as circle keepers for reconciliation circles.

Involving all stakeholders in a resolution process when harm or a breach in right relationship occurs, affords participants the chance to see a situation from multiple perspectives, enhancing empathy, accountability and critical thinking.

Implementation: To acquaint teachers, administrators, and students with the pilot program, the Restorative Practices Coordinator, will offer a) an in-service staff/faculty module, b) a community- building mindfulness circle during class, c) an educational unit on restorative practices tailored to individual classes to acquaint students with response circles, d) intensive circle training for older students recruited as circle keepers.

Potentially any member of the school community can request a response circle when a disruptive or conflictual situation arises. Once a referral is received by the designated staff person, s/he meets individually with each person directly involved to gain background information and assemble a response circle. During the response circle, those directly affected have the opportunity to explore the impact of the harmful/disruptive behavior, identify accountability and appropriate responses to restore right relationships, address harm done and strengthen connection within the school community. The designated staff person then follows up on the agreement/contract generated by the response circle to insure follow-through and a successful resolution.