On March 11th, over 100 local educators, administrators and community leaders gathered at the Restorative Practices Symposium to explore, learn and experience from experts and practitioners in the field. The event was organized in response to the increasing interest in restorative practices in the region. The morning consisted of a keynote speaker and three practitioner presentations, while the afternoon allowed participants to experience different aspects of restorative practices based upon interest. Let’s take a look at what we learned about throughout the morning!
The keynote speaker, Dr. Tom Cavanagh of Colorado State University shared evidence and research specific to restorative practice in schools. He noted the significance of creating a culture of care using the principles and practices of restorative justice in the school environment. Dr. Cavanagh’s work with Hinkley High School in Aurora, Colorado was a great example of the application of a “culture of care” and related positive outcomes. Based on his research, Dr. Cavanagh concluded the implications for restorative schools include improved graduation rates, decreased discipline referrals, increased learning time and greater equity.
Deb Golley and Mollie Lapi, of CA BOCES Exceptional Education Programs spoke about the implementation process and daily practices within special education programs. They shared the reality of the 80/20 rule with restorative practices. The majority (80%) of practices are proactive, leaving the reactive practices happening much less of the time (20%). Therefore, reinforcing that restorative schools are heavily invested in practices that build relationships and community. This investment enables the responsive practices, such as conferences or corrective circles, to have greater influence and success in repairing harm and relationships when harm has occurred.
Representatives from East High School in the Rochester City School District, Dr. Lia Festenstein and Michelle Garcia offered insight into the revitalization of climate and culture in an urban school, through the implementation of restorative practices. Garcia introduced the social discipline window and noted that the ideal restorative response is a combination of high control (limit setting, discipline) and high support (encouragement, nurturing). Dr. Festenstein highlighted the process and stages of implementation and shared details of the journey from year one into year four. Finally, Dr. Festenstein spoke of the noteworthy impact that restorative practices has had at EAST. Outcomes include, a decrease in school referrals and suspensions, a decrease in the severity of school offenses and a narrowing discipline gap that disproportionately punishes students of color.
Finally, participants heard from local superintendent Lori DiCarlo. DiCarlo walked participants through the three tiers of restorative practices. She illustrated how the multi-tiered system of support aligns with the restorative practices continuum and what this looks like at Randolph Academy UFSD. For each of the three tiers, DiCarlo gave examples of what the practice looks like, how it is implemented and what the benefits are.
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools Coordinator