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Posts Tagged ‘juvenile offender’

Solving a problem by definition means making something better. But for many years, disciplinary action in schools made things worse. Now more communities are testing the potential of “restorative justice,” an approach focused on helping a perpetrator change for the better.

It was at a neighborhood picnic that I first heard from a couple neighbors that they were restorative-justice volunteers.

They told me that if a student spray paints someone’s garage, let’s say, the police get called in, and the kid may end up with a record.

Under restorative justice, however, police, perpetrator, victim, school personnel, and community volunteers hear the case and agree on suitable compensation — in this case, it might be repainting the garage. The youth sees face to face how the victim feels. Change is possible with the community involved.

Patricia Leigh Brown writes at the NY Times about a restorative justice program in Oakland, California, where a high school’s “zero tolerance” policies had ridden roughshod over underlying causes, leading to escalation of problems.

She writes about youth adviser Eric Butler, whose “mission is to help defuse grenades of conflict at Ralph J. Bunche High School, the end of the line for students with a history of getting into trouble. He is the school’s coordinator for restorative justice, a program increasingly offered in schools seeking an alternative to ‘zero tolerance’ policies like suspension and expulsion.

“The approach … encourages young people to come up with meaningful reparations for their wrongdoing while challenging them to develop empathy for one another through ‘talking circles’ led by facilitators like Mr. Butler.” More.

In one talking circle, participants discovered that a girl in trouble for uncontrolled aggression had just lost a brother to gun violence. She had not told anyone or sought support. She began to learn other ways to deal with her anger.

Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Mr. Butler with a student at Ralph J. Bunche High School in Oakland.

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