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Restorative practice: How young can we go?

Nov 21, 2011

from the article by Charlotte Clerehugh:

...Three boys (aged 5 and 6) admitted collecting rocks from the perimeter of the school field and throwing them through the fence at staff cars.

The two members of staff, whose cars were damaged, were very angry.  Initial discussions took place with them and myself, (as Head Teacher) as to how to deal with the problem.  It was apparent that the feeling was that the boys needed to be made aware that their behaviour had consequences, and exclusion was mentioned several times. However, as a school that had been implementing restorative practices over the last 18 months, staff soon realised that to simply exclude, in this situation, would go against everything we believed in.

The little boys in question at 5 and 6 years, were very immature, and seemed to have little understanding of how their actions had affected those involved; therefore it was decided that to exclude them would no way address their lack of understanding.

It was decided that to hold a restorative conference that included everyone involved; the boys, the staff and their parents, might be the way forward.

I had attended training with the IIRP in restorative conference facilitation the previous year, and whilst our school had utilised many restorative practices such as mini conferences, class conferencing and informal restorative inquiry; along with training of peer mediators, this was to be our first formal restorative conference.

It was felt that we needed to get on and deal with the situation immediately, staff involved were anxious, never having done this before and feared of things not working out as hoped, but we had learned to trust in the process and stick to the script.  The parents of the boys were invited in to meet with the Head that afternoon, to be made aware of the situation.  Parents expressed their upset about the incident their boys had been involved in and were apologetic. It was explained that as a restorative school we wanted to try and deal with this through using restorative approaches and holding a conference.
Initially the parents were unsure, and felt that maybe the boys were not mature enough at such a young age, to benefit from this approach.

One mother felt that the three boys together would just make each other laugh and not take the situation seriously.  Eventually, they all agreed to give it a try, even though one parent was sceptical, and said she wanted exclusion for her son, so that he could be ‘taught a lesson’.

Read the whole article.

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Allison Lee
Allison Lee says:
Nov 23, 2011 02:34 AM

Hello, <br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;I am currently a 4th year student at Simon Fraser University. I have taken an elective this semester on my first restorative justice class. At first I had no idea about what restorative justice was and meant but after learning more about it I have a completely different view on justice. <br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;I completely agree about what was done with the children. I have learned that if you were to be punished for something you have done, you don't really learn what u did was wrong. You would just consider other ways to try to avoid not getting caught or maybe even think of getting revenge on the person that punished you. This is why I think it is good to teach children at any age that what they have done is wrong by explaining what effects it has had on others. As mentioned by a speaker that came to our classroom, it is easy to get or receive a punishment and it is the accountability that is hard. To fix the problem or get accountable it is important to involve the community. It is also the community that needs to help out not just one individual like a parent because the offender or the children in this case are part of the community. In order for the children to learn and grow they need to know why their actions were wrong and not just told they were wrong. <br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;I was happy to hear that the children were taking action to fix the wrong that they had committed because admitting and apologising to what you have done is just the beginning. The most important part is learning to how to help fix the harm that was created. <br />

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