Restorative Justice Approach to Discipline
In 2013 we began trialing a new process for dealing with behaviour management. Although time consuming, this process does seem to assist students in dealing with their difficulties and enables them to move on following disputes or arguments. The following explains this process and the rationale behind it.
Restorative Justice in a school setting views misconduct not as school rule breaking, but as a violation against people and relationships in the school and the wider community. This approach to dealing with discipline issues fosters awareness in the student of how others have been affected.
Teachers who have been trained in the restorative approach to student discipline and management try to avoid lecturing at East Bentleigh Primary School as this often results in the student reacting defensively. It distracts them from noticing other people’s feelings. Therefore staff members use specific language for example:
- What were you thinking?
- How did you feel?
- Who do you think was affected?
- How do you think they were affected?
- How can you repair the harm?”
Instead of simply doling out punishment, which the student is expected to accept passively, the student is asked to speak. They face and listen to those who have been affected by their inappropriate behaviour. They help decide how to repair the harm and make a commitment to this, therefore allowing the student to be held accountable.
Often fault is unclear and school community members are encouraged to agree and to accept the ambiguous situation.
Separating the Deed from the Doer
We recognize a student’s worth, their virtues and accomplishments while disapproving of their wrongdoing.
Learning from Mistakes
Every instance of wrongdoing and conflict is an opportunity for learning. Negative incidents can be used constructively to build empathy and a sense of community in the hope that there is a reduction of negative incidents in the future.
Reported incidents are followed up by impromptu or more formal conferences, which aim to achieve an appropriate and satisfactory outcome for all involved.
- All who participate have a sense of fairness and justice.
- The student gains a greater insight into the impact of behaviours on others.
- A healing of the hurt and a repairing of damaged relationships.
- The student remains a member of the school community, which can continue to offer support and a sense of belonging.
- A sense of community is heightened when students, and parents are equally valued as participants at a conference. (A community conference - more on that later)
Should your child be involved in a conference they will have a friend there to support them, no matter what side of the fence they’re on. As a parent we ask you to discuss the situation with your child and then sign the conference agreement that will come home. Please retain the portion containing the actual agreement and place it somewhere so the child can be reminded of his or her commitment.
Positive and negative consequences as set out in the Student Code of Conduct are adhered to when violations have occurred, following Restorative Justice guidelines.