Our vision for BVSD is to ensure all students, teachers, and staff -- regardless of gender, race, class, ability, or any other identities -- feel connected, safe, seen, heard, and valued within their school community. Restorative practices support this vision.
In 2020, Boulder Valley School District passed Resolution 20-33 to address equitable discipline and approaches to student conduct. More specifically, schools are expected to use best practices as well as culturally responsive practices in order to address inequities in discipline policies. Schools are expected to incorporate a wide range of strategies to support positive student behavior, reduce misbehavior, and maintain a safe learning environment, including the use of conflict resolution and restorative practices. In 2021, BVSD also hired a Restorative Practices Coordinator whose role is to support with the training and facilitation of restorative practices for schools across the district to ensure consistency in the usage of restorative practices.
Defining Restorative Practices
Restorative practices is a whole-school approach that includes collaborative processes that build, maintain and when necessary, repair relationships after harm occurs. It is critical that schools actively embed restorative practices into their climate and culture and place a significant emphasis on the proactive, relationship-building components of this approach. Restorative practices focus on:
Building social capital and relationships.
Addressing and repairing relationships after harm has occurred.
Reintegrating students who are being welcomed back to a school community.
Using a restorative lens to approach discipline allows for the optional process for responsible and impacted students to meet face-to-face through a conversation by a trained facilitator in which restorative questions are asked to everyone who wants to participate. Responsible students are held accountable for their actions through this process and through co-creating logical consequences/agreements, impacted students and others to have the opportunity for their voices to be heard, and all students to strengthen overall relationships through repairing the harm that was caused. In restorative discipline, we ensure there are still high expectations for behavior while also providing support needed to repair the relationships and harm caused.
When a student doesn’t understand a concept in class, the teacher will teach and reteach the material until the student comprehends it. The same concept applies to approaching behaviors through restorative discipline. This process provides thoughtful time to pause and provide space to properly address each situation. When we have the opportunity to process what happened, how people were impacted and affected by actions, and develop a concrete plan to repair harm and prevent something like this from happening again, we are much more likely to walk away with an experience of everyone being heard, having a fair process used, and having more completeness.
You may have heard of restorative justice (RJ) before. RJ falls under the umbrella term of restorative practices and is a formal and voluntary process that serves to address more severe incidents of harm. In most cases, RJ will occur at the middle and high school levels since that's most often where we see more serious incidents. Just like any other restorative process, RJ is a voluntary process in which the impacted and responsible students, as well as other student supporters and/or bystanders, meet one-on-one first with the RJ facilitator and then as a group come together to talk about what happened, the impact on others, what can be done to repair the harm causes, and what can be done to prevent something like this from ever happening again. The group co-creates a list of agreements that will be completed to repair the harm and this list is monitored by the facilitator and/or administration at the school.
If your child was impacted by or caused harm to someone else at school and they are interested in a possible restorative process, reach out to an administrator at your child’s school to learn more if it’s an appropriate opportunity and next step. Administrators know that if the situation requires an investigation, the investigation piece must be initiated and completed prior to using a restorative process, such as a restorative circle, mediation, or restorative justice conference.
WATCH VIDEO: Introduction to Restorative Practices
WATCH VIDEO: Building a Restorative Classroom
WATCH VIDEO: The "Why" Of Restorative Practices
WATCH VIDEO: Restorative Practices in Oakland Schools