LCPS Restorative Practices are a continuum of services to help build or strengthen school communities, prevent conflict, target support to specific groups of students, and respond to conflict among students.
Participation in any Restorative Practices intervention is always voluntary, and these interventions are only facilitated by trained school professionals. The general goal of Restorative Practices is to give students an opportunity to create and strengthen connections, or to address situations that impact themselves, others, and the school community.
Three main components of Restorative Practices (RP) are restorative language, restorative circles, and restorative conferences.
The goal of restorative language is to have a proactive (or responsive), one-on-one discussion with a student regarding actions, behaviors, reactions, and impact. Rather than asking “Why did you do that?”, restorative language focuses on asking “What happened, and who is being affected by what’s happening?” Ultimately, using restorative language helps students understand their role and responsibility in moving forward in a positive way.
The goal of restorative circles is to give students an opportunity to build community and create connections with both peers and staff in the classroom. Students sit in a circle, and the RP facilitator(s) asks various questions that everyone has the opportunity to answer. Some of these questions are designed to be fun, aimed at allowing the community to create or strengthen connections. Other questions might celebrate the positive aspects of the school's community, while others might address needs identified by the school's community. By making stronger connections to their classroom community, the less likely it is for students to engage in conflict. Restorative circles can also be used in ongoing small groups to target specific needs.
The goal of restorative conferencing is to bring students and others involved in a conflict together to have a facilitated, structured conversation about what happened, who was affected and how, and what needs to happen to make things right or move forward in a positive way. Often, when issues occur between students, they are not given the chance to hear from the others involved in the conflict, especially how they may have been affected or impacted.
For a restorative conference process to begin, those who harmed or impacted others must first admit to their wrongdoing. Accordingly, RP facilitators may determine that an RP conference is not appropriate if there is a chance that additional harm may be done. During the restorative conferencing process, students have the opportunity to take responsibility for their behavior by addressing those they have harmed or impacted, and hear how their actions have affected others.
A fundamental part of the process allows students who have been harmed or impacted to have a voice, and speak to how they have been affected. Additionally, they are empowered to speak their truth about what happened, and talk about what they need in order to make things right for them moving forward.
Parents or supporters that may be involved may also be invited to participate, if appropriate. In doing so, they also would have an opportunity to speak their truth about what happened, how they or their child have been impacted, and what might help moving forward.
Many times done in conjunction with traditional school discipline, restorative conferencing gives students the opportunity to learn from the process without having their education interrupted.
Restorative conferencing is always a voluntary, confidential process that often involves a written agreement. Each participant has input into creating the agreement, with a focus on helping everyone involved move forward in a positive way.
How does a school make a referral for a Restorative Conference?
A referral will be made by an administrator to the Regional RP Facilitator. The Regional RP Facilitator will contact them either that same day, or the day after receiving the referral to gather any other pertinent information. They will set up a time to meet with each student (and parent/guardian, if appropriate) separately for a pre-conference. The pre‐conference allows time for the process to be explained thoroughly, for questions to be asked and answered, and gives participants the chance to discuss the process in a confidential space. Once each party has pre‐conferenced and everyone is on board with moving forward, a restorative conference is scheduled for everyone involved. This process from start to finish can take up to a week, depending on everyone’s flexibility in scheduling.