Under the leadership of School Psychologist, Dr. Jan Petersen, Wichita West High School is moving forward on an exciting and significant demonstration project in Restorative Practices (a spinoff of Restorative Justice) where the goal is a feeling of connectedness and belonging, with high expectations and high support that creates a more inclusive and safer school.
According to Dr. Petersen, research shows the following practices are key in creating a school environment where everyone feels welcomed and part of the fabric of a school:
- Bearing witness to human suffering
- Instilling hope
- Building relationships
Dr. Petersen says:
“Punitive measures are sometimes expedient and occasionally necessary, but they are not restorative.
We can’t expel or suspend our way to safer and more inclusive schools!
Relationships, patience, consistency, and everyone modeling the behaviors we want to see is what works. The more a school family commits to restorative practices, the more a true experience of community can be built.”
The plan for Restorative Practices at West High means:
- Collaboration between the School Psychologist, Administration, School Climate Team, and a part-time Restorative Practices Advocate in planning and implementation of Restorative Practices initiatives*;
- Creating and facilitating formal and informal Restorative Practices interventions for students to try and prevent suspensions and expulsions except where students behave in ways counter to Zero Tolerance school district policies;
- Engaging and communicating with school stakeholders (parents, students, staff, etc.) regarding Restorative Practices interventions and initiatives;
- Building supportive relationships with ALL students – especially those involved in Restorative Practices interventions, including initiating and supporting ongoing case management;
- Planning and coordinating Restorative Practices conferences, trainings and professional development for staff, students, parents and other stakeholders;
*[Note: Training for the Restorative Practices Initiative at West High was provided by the Kansas Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR). See below.]
It is the needs of West High students and their families, and the professionals who work with them at West that are targeted to impact in a positive way.
The dream and the goal for Restorative Practices at West is that the practice will help shape a new and more productive way of understanding school life that weaves perfectly with already established Safe and Civil Schools processes and frameworks so that the entire Wichita West High School Family is …
- more successful,
- more fulfilled and happy, and
- less stressed by negativity.
(Note: Positive Rhythm training concepts are also being applied to help everyone at Wichita West High School use improved relationships and the most powerful tools the School Climate Team can find or devise to build a great school community.)
Questions? Contact Dr. Jan Petersen! JPETERSEN@USD259.NET
Restorative Practices is a social science that studies how to restore relationships; repair harm; reduce bullying, violence & crime; improve human behavior; strengthen civil society through non-violent communication; and encourage a more positive climate. In a school environment, this is achieved by practicing strategies such as using “talking sticks and talking circles to introduce academic subjects, to discuss issues such as bullying and classroom discipline, and to resolve conflicts among students.
Restorative Practices also ties into the philosophy, tools, and strategies of Safe & Civil Schools to promote a positive school climate through a strong foundation and structure for “positive behavioral support.” This is intended to change what stimulates and reinforces students in their environment and also teaches students to strengthen skill areas where they are weak – such as in communication skills, social skills, and self-management skills so they can be more successful.
Through a paradigm shift from a punitive to a restorative structure, school leaders use restorative practices to help prevent students from “falling through the cracks” into school failure by teaching and modeling positive behaviors; intervening early in at-risk behavior in whole classrooms, small groups, or individual targeted interventions; designing meaningful alternatives to suspension & expulsion (where offenses are not non-negotiable); and increasing academic support, customized and more intensive social skills training, and collaboration with parents and community agencies.
Questions? CONTACT KIPCOR