Restorative Justice Conferencing

In April 2010, The Resolution Center embarked on a pilot program in conjunction with the Warren Consolidated School District. The initiative is to keep kids in school by mediating incidents where students break the school code of conduct. In instances where traditionally students would be subject to disciplinary writing, detention, suspension or expulsion, students that are willing to accept their part in the offense are allowed to volunteer for the Conferencing process to work out an agreement with the victim to heal the harm.

Restorative Justice Conferencing uses the process that originated among the Maori tribe of New Zeeland. The tradition of the Maori, in an effort to reintegrate an offender back in to the main stream of society, is to allow community offenders to meet with all that have been affected by the offense, discuss the matter and decide how to respond accordingly. This concept is effective in reestablishing an individual’s worth to the community and allows for that person to become a productive part of the community once again. This concept has been adapted to a formal process in which we call “Conferencing”.

School disciplinary methods fail, in most cases, to reintegrate students who fit the role of offender. After the discipline, these students carry around the negative stigma of being thought of as “bad” or “troublemaker” in so much as they believe the titles themselves and begin to gravitate into negative sub cultures within and out of the school. These sub cultures set the students lock step in the behavior schools and society are striving to change. Once trapped in these negative mind-sets, the behavior and attitude most often follows them through school and out into the community afterwards.

Conferencing is the tool that supports the student in healing the harm they have caused, identifying that the behavior is unacceptable and in opening the door to realize that he/she has a bright future if they refrain from the poor decisions of the past. The closest school district to Southeast Michigan using this program is in Ingham County (Lansing area). It has been established for the last five years and has had a very positive and powerful impact on the school district there. The Director of Student Affairs at Warren Consolidated School District realized the potential of conferencing and was inspired to implement the process in conjunction with The Resolution Center.

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