Restorative Conference

A process that could be proposed is a Restorative Conference.

Restorative Conferences provide those who have been harmed and others with an opportunity to confront the one who has caused harm. These individuals have the opportunity to express their feelings, ask questions, and have a say in how the matter will be resolved.

Those who have caused harm hear how their behavior has affected people. They can begin to repair the harm they have caused by apologizing and agreeing to make amends in other ways.

Restorative Conferences are not mediation or counseling and do not result in punishment. They act to hold people accountable for their actions and to engage in problem-solving to develop strategies to make amends and prevent harm in the future.

The Restorative Conference could also address concerns of staff who the student perceived ignored the hurtful situation or appeared to be supporting the one being hurtful.

The Restorative Conference would likely including the following people:

  • The targeted student and his or her parents.
  • Witnesses and friends of the targeted student who can explain what has happened and the impact on the target–possibly including the student’s pediatrician.
  • Any students who routinely engaged in hurtful behavior and their parents.
  • Any teachers or other school staff who witnessed hurtful situations, especially any who failed to intervene effectively or appeared to be supporting the hurtful behavior of others.
  • If your child is on an IEP or 504, the responsible teacher.
  • The principal and any other school leader who investigated and intervened.

In the context of a Restorative Conference, it may become evident that there are also concerns of the ineffectiveness of staff responses or the existence of a hostile environment. These concerns likely also causing concerns for other students. If there is evidence of such concernst, the agreement for the Restorative Conference could also include steps that the school will take to better assess and address these concerns.

For example:

  • If there has been a regular pattern of school staff not responding effectively in hurtful situations, this could be investigated more comprehensively. This could be because staff have other pressing responsibilities they do not know how to respond effectively, or other concerns. Once the problem is more fully understood, changes in required practices and professional development could be provided.
  • If your child has a disability and is being harassed, likely other students with disabilities are being harassed also. So an agreement could include that the principal and special education coordinator will hold focus groups with other students who have disabilities, identify possible strategies to address these concerns such as a program to connect each student with disabilities with one or two peer mentors, and evaluate the effectiveness of that strategy.