Restorative Practices – What It Is and How We Can Help

wendyz@michiganprincipals.org's picture

Michigan has effectively rolled back the state's previous zero tolerance law. These changes, which went into effect on Aug. 1, require districts to conduct a thorough review of local student discipline policies and procedures. The new laws require consideration of seven factors in every case of suspension or expulsion except when it comes to firearms. One of those factors to consider is using Restorative Practices as an alternative to or in addition to suspension. But what does the term Restorative Practices mean?

The new law defines Restorative Practices as "practices that emphasize repairing the harm to the victim and the school community caused by a pupil's misconduct." Simply put, they are an approach to addressing conflict and misconduct that focuses on healing rather than punishment. As an administrator or staff, you may already be using Restorative Practices and you don't even realize it. Oftentimes they include:

  • Victim-offender conferences
  • Opportunity for the offender to accept responsibility and "repair the harm"
  • Requiring the offender to…
    • Apologize
    • Participate in community service, restoration, or counseling
    • Pay restitution

But it's much more than simply not suspending a student and having them apologize. Restorative Practices give people the potential to do something different – to challenge the way that they think, behave and change. Restorative Practices are based on four key features:

  • Respect: Listening to other opinions and learning to value everyone.
  • Responsibility: Taking ownership for one's own actions.
  • Repair: Developing necessary skills within a school community so its individual members have the ability to identify solutions that repair harm.
  • Re-Integration: Working within a structured, supportive process to resolve issues and ensure unwanted behavior is not repeated, while allowing students to remain inside the mainstream education environment.

To help administrators and their staff institute true Restorative Practices, we've reached out to one of Michigan's best – Roy Burton, Founder of Michigan Restorative Practices Trainers and Consultants. Roy will be leading several upcoming workshops on behalf of MASSP with a focus on two areas/groups.

Restorative Practices: Introduction (Sept. 15 -or- Nov. 16)

The workshop is intended for administrators and other school leaders who need more information but won't necessarily be the person leading Restorative Practices within their building.

Participants will get an overview of Restorative Practices, how they should be used per the law and what/who it will take to implement this change in their building and/or district. More specifically, participants will learn about a data-based, analytical problem solving approach that finds and resolves root causes.

    • Problem Identification: What's the problem?
    • Problem Analysis: Why is this occurring?
    • Intervention Design: What are we going to do about it?
    • Response to Intervention: Is it working?

Certification Training - 2-day (Oct. 24 & 31 -or- Nov. 21 & 28)

This two-day workshop is intended for counselors, administrators, teacher leaders or any others who will be leading Restorative Practices and circles within their building. Those who complete the training will be certified through the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP®).

Day #1 - Intro to RP
Learn practical strategies to build strong, healthy relationships with students, families, clients, employees and colleagues. Interactive experiences will bring participants to a full understanding of the fundamental unifying premise of restorative practices – that people are happier, more cooperative and productive and more likely to make positive changes in their lives when those in positions of authority do things with them rather than to them or for them.

Day #2 - Using Circles Effectively
Holding group discussions in a circle helps to facilitate meaningful conversation and encourages full participation from everyone involved. Through video, practice and discussion, participants identify reliable methods for using circles to build community, establish norms and address behavior and relationships.

We hope that Michigan's rollback of zero tolerance will help building leaders and their teams look at student conduct and discipline through a new lens. Research clearly shows the connection between the implementation of Restorative Practices and improved relationships among students and teachers, reduced disciplinary problems, and building a true sense of community within a school/district.

For more information on either of our two upcoming workshop offerings, please visit the MASSP website: mymassp.com/eventlist. Sessions are filling up quickly, so make sure to reserve your spot as soon as possible!