Restorative Practices, Peer Mediation, and Peer Supporters
Restorative Practices (RP)
In conjunction with or as an alternative to traditional discipline methods, restorative justice practices prevent and address behaviors that hurt individuals, families, the school, and community. Repairing the harm and relationships between those involved become the focus. The Burlington School District has made RP a top priority to reduce suspensions and expulsions and improve academic performance. Research has demonstrated that RP schools result in positive student outcomes, such as increased problem-solving skills and improved ability to understand peers, manage emotions, develop greater empathy, resolve conflict with parents, and maintain positive relationships.
RP utilizes the following strategies to address wrongdoing and reduce the likelihood of recurrence:
- Mediate with the people in conflict
- Provide a service, such as cleaning, gardening, helping younger students, or working on a service school project
- Meet with a mentor at school no less than once a week
- Attend counseling, such as anger management, anti-bullying, or anti-bias sessions
- Pay for or repair the damage, such as removing graffiti and working with custodians
- Attend a family or community restorative conference arranged by an external agency
Peer Mediation (PM)
Champlain students in grades 3-5 have the opportunity to train as peer mediators. Peer mediators help resolve everyday conflicts among classmates by learning active listening, facilitation, and problem-solving skills, and is a common form of restorative practices in schools stemming back decades. Years of Responsive Classroom class meetings have prepared CES students to take their skills beyond the circle and help solve conflict throughout the student body. Over the past two years, over seventy children have trained to become mediators. Every week students participate in PM sessions on the playground, in the lunchroom, in the planning room, and in the main office. Once again, trainings will take place after school in fall 2018, which parents may volunteer to join.
Here is the script that peer mediators follow during a PM session. Please use these often!
- Establish the Goal(Mediator: Ask everyone in the circle to help establish the goal.)
- What’s our goal for today’s meeting?
Ground Rules (Mediator: Read these questions and ask everyone to give a thumbs-up or sideways. If anyone gives thumbs down, it means that this person is not ready to mediate. The peer mediator can try to convince him/her to agree. Otherwise the mediation circle is over.)
- Do you agree to let others finish speaking and not interrupt?
- Do you agree to respect what other people say?
- Do you agree to answer the questions?
- Do you agree to be honest?
- Do you agree to work on solving the problem?
- Do you agree to keep our discussion confidential?
- Questions for the People in Conflict
- What happened during the incident?
- What were you thinking when it happened?
- What have you thought about it since?
- How did you affect the problem?
- What has been hard for you?
- Questions for their Supporters
- What did you think when you heard about the problem?
- How do you feel about what happened?
- What has been hard for you?
- What do you think are the main issues?
- Questions for Everyone to Create an Agreement(Mediator: Read each question aloud and ask everyone in the circle for his/her responses. Either a mediator or supporter can write all the ideas on the board.)
- Is there anything else that you would like to add to this discussion?
- What do you want from today’s meeting?
- What suggestions do you have that would solve the problem?
- What suggestions do you have to help everyone feel safe?
(Ask them which ideas they agree with. Erase the ideas they don’t agree with. Ask them the sign the board or paper. Ask a PM adult to take a picture or make a copy of the agreement.)
At Champlain, when students struggle with their behavior, a staff member may ask them to invite a friend to join in reflecting on and problem solving the issue. Together with the principal or other staff member, the friend becomes a peer supporter by sharing insights on the causes of the behavior and the steps necessary for repairing the damage.