Culture & Climate Corner: Restorative Communities Grow to New Heights
By Tanya Franklin
What began thousands of years ago is growing to new heights at the Partnership in 2015. Restorative justice in schools is based on indigenous practices like holding circles to build relationships, discuss issues and heal harm. Borrowing from the Maori in New Zealand and the First Nations in Canada, school districts in the United States are adopting restorative approaches to address discipline and to strengthen school culture and classroom climate. In Los Angeles Unified, the School Climate Bill of Rights declares a commitment to restorative justice practices in all schools by 2020, and at the Partnership, several schools are getting a head start.
While some Partnership schools like Gompers and Markham Middle Schools and Roosevelt High School began restorative justice in 2013-14 with a grant from the California Endowment, others like Jordan High School began in 2014-15 with Reed Restorative Communities professional development, and still others had a few staff members attend trainings with the Partnership, LAUSD, and/or the California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ), all schools have a unique opportunity for the 2015-16 school year. This year, the Partnership has created a new teacher leader position, the Restorative Communities Leads, and several learning opportunities for school leaders and teacher leaders to grow and strengthen our work with Restorative Communities.
The July 2015 “Great Leaders, Great Systems” Leadership Retreat, included three intense days of learning and planning for nearly 50 principals, assistant principals and coordinators. The Partnership emphasized a focus on healthy school cultures with strategic systems to support Restorative Communities. The entire first day for all participants was dedicated to developing school culture norms and structures. On day three, nearly 20 leaders attended a choice session on leading Restorative Practices with Staff. Throughout the retreat, there were several opportunities to build relationships and team, including daily closing circles, the Wall of Love, and School Leader Trivia.
The following week, the Partnership hosted nearly 200 teacher leaders and school leaders at Mendez High School for the 2015 Summer Seminars, “Leading Together.” Across the network, 22 Restorative Communities Leads and approximately 15 school leaders attended fifteen hours of professional learning to strengthen their own facilitation of restorative practices, coach others restoratively, and lead school-wide efforts to improve culture and climate. The Wall of Love continued, as did opening and closing activities to build community. All participants received a spiral-bound Restorative Communities Resource Guide with ideas for circles and team-building activities.
The 2015 Leadership Retreat and Summer Seminars were the kick-start to a year focused on strengthening positive school culture and cultivating Restorative Communities. With monthly Leadership Conferences and quarterly Restorative Communities Leads seminars dedicated to culture and climate, the work will only grow stronger.
Tanya Franklin is the Director of School Culture and Restorative Communities at the Partnership.