Over the past month, members of the Student RJ Team and Longmont Community Justice Partnership's RPS staff have gone into three classrooms to speak with groups of students about restorative justice in schools. Two of those classes used Connection Circles to address issues of disrespect and violation of classroom norms. After an initial community-building circle, students identified ways they see the 5 R's (Relationship, Respect, Responsibility, Repair and Reintegration) in their classroom and real life. One of the Student RJ Team members led a discussion about how it feels when people are respecting one another and the teacher. The class then had an opportunity to discuss ways the 5 R's were not being upheld and the impact it had on the feeling of the class. Many students had insightful reflections and were able to express how it affects them personally and at school. At the end, each student made a commitment for what they could do moving forward to shift the classroom dynamics. Both classes have requested a follow-up presentation to "check in" after a few weeks.
The other class is reading Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen, a story about Cole, a young boy who is referred to circle justice after a violent assault. His initial attempt to manipulate the circle had severe consequences and the story is about his process of learning to control his anger, take responsibility and make things right with the victim. The class did a number of exercises including identifying how each of the 5 R's was missing in Cole's life before his circle and when he finally saw them appear. We built Cole's circle, with members of the class playing each of the participants, and found that each person in the circle needed to do their part for the circle to remain strong. As a class, they were able to find a balance with each other, using climbing webbing to support them as they sat down and stood up as a group. We simulated how the circle is affected when Cole did not take full responsibility and had a discussion about restorative justice programs and how circles are used in schools in St. Vrain Valley School District, Longmont, Colorado, the US and the world. All of the students waked away with a better understanding of how each of their choices affects not only themselves but also everyone around them.