Higher Ground school based services uses a restorative justice approach to solving problems and building community in the classroom, student to student and teacher to student. Our goal is assist teachers in allowing students to go through the process without sever harm to the class or facilitate problem solving and conflict between teacher/s and student/s k-12 helping to avoid suspension. Our problem solving lessons teach students and the adults who work with them how to transform thinking so that it moves from a suspension/zero tolerance model, that often times has sever consequences for students. According to Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review authors J. Comer and A. Poussaint overly harsh punishment via suspension and expulsion “either destroys a child’s spirit, has no effect at all, worsens the problem, or makes it more difficult for you to work with the child in school-he or she no longer trust you”.
Restorative Justice in the classroom is Higher Ground’s specialty. Higher Ground works with teachers to repair harm when they are the initiator and visa versa. Helping teachers and students identify who has been harmed and why, what the needs of both parties in maintaining a productive learning environment for everyone, and who is responsible for putting things right. Our goal is to help restore and maintain emotional equity and right order in the classroom using restorative justice particles.
Above: students are engaging in the restorative circle using the talking piece to assure that everyone is herd.
The potential advantages of restorative approaches in the school setting include:
Restorative Approaches inspired by the philosophy and practices of restorative justice, which puts repairing harm done to relationships and people over and above the need for assigning blame and dispensing punishment
Key values create an ethos of respect, inclusion, accountability and taking responsibility, commitment to relationships, impartiality, being non-judgmental, collaboration, empowerment and emotional articulacy.
Key skills include active listening, facilitating dialogue and problem-solving, listening to and expressing emotion and empowering others to take ownership of problems.
Processes and practices include interventions when harm has happened, such as restorative enquiry (aka, in some circumstances, corridor conferences), mediation (aka mini-conferencing), community conferencing (aka group mediation and/or problem-solving community circles). However there are also processes and practices that help to prevent harm and conflict occurring and which build a sense of belonging, safety and social responsibility. These include Circle Time and Restorative Pedagogy (teachers modeling the values and skills and creating opportunities for their development amongst the students whatever the subject being taught).