The School Mediator
Peer Mediation Insights From the Desk of Richard Cohen Vol. VII, 9/07

in this issue

Restorative Practices

Restorative Practices Workshop in November

Richard Cohen Interested in Working Abroad in 2008

About Us

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The School Mediator's Field Guide:
Prejudice, Sexual Harassment, Large Groups and Other Daily Challenges
by Richard Cohen
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Students Resolving Conflict:
Peer Mediation in Schools

by Richard Cohen
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Welcome back to school and to the seventh (!) volume of The School Mediator. I am delighted to be "back in the saddle."

This month we begin an exploration of the important field of "Restorative Practices."

As always, please send along your thoughts and experiences.

Wishing you the best, wherever you are,

Richard Cohen
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates

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  • Restorative Practices

  • These days, I can't get enough of the new field known as "Restorative Practices."

    Restorative Practices is inspired by the values and principles of Restorative Justice, a world-wide social movement to institutionalize peaceful approaches to address harm, solve problems, and uphold legal and human rights.

    Simply put, Restorative Justice aspires to repair the harm that results from crime/wrongdoing by enabling all those affected by it--those who are harmed, the wrongdoers, and the wider community --to jointly develop a resolution.

    This often involves bringing parties face-to-face, sometimes even in cases involving extremely serious crimes. People who have stolen, defaced property, burned buildings, abused others, even murdered... all have met with those they have harmed.

    Amazingly, even though what has been done often cannot be undone, participants report that the process has been healing for them.

    Restorative Practices in schools, or RP, is one offshoot of the multifaceted Restorative Justice movement. Restorative Practices is devoted to:

    1. Developing policies and practices in schools that promote harmonious relationships and a positive school climate.

    2. Restoring relationships that have been harmed in a way that meets the needs of those who have been hurt, holds people accountable for misbehavior, and preserves the dignity of all

    Restorative Practices includes a wide range of formal and informal strategies to accomplish these goals, among them:

    ·Community building activities
    ·Curricula focused on resolving conflict and teaching social skills
    ·Restorative language and questions
    ·Restorative conversations
    ·Mediation (including peer mediation)
    ·Circles (checking-in as well as problem solving circles)
    ·Restorative meetings
    ·Formal restorative conferences

    The following are just a few of the reasons I find Restorative Practices so compelling:

    1. RP Understands How People Work
    Restorative Practices is grounded in ancient, aboriginal approaches to addressing wrongdoing while also informed by the modern fields of psychology, sociology, education, and organizational behavior. As such, RP displays an elegant, common sense understanding of human nature and motivation.

    2. RP Addresses Pressing Needs
    Restorative Practices address one of the central challenges of contemporary education: that young people live in increasingly disconnected societies, with often far less family and community support than they need to be their best. Educators face the consequences of this situation in their classrooms every day.

    3. RP Provides an Overarching Framework for Action
    With its emphasis on strengthening and repairing relationships, Restorative Practices provides a theoretical framework that ties many popular interventions together, be they curricular (e.g., Second Step, Responsive Classroom), programmatic (peer mediation, advisor-advisee), school climate oriented (Mix It Up, diversity events), or classroom management oriented (circles, restorative enquiry).

    4. RP Makes School Discipline More Effective
    Restorative Practices include a range of highly effective processes to address student (and adult) misbehavior. These processes have the relatively unique ability to simultaneously hold people accountable, support those harmed by misbehavior, develop empathy in those who misbehave, and strengthen the school community. A far cry from the counterproductive, "Zero Tolerance" approach to discipline that has been in vogue here in the US.

    5. RP Provides Additional Tools
    For those who currently operate peer mediation programs, Restorative Practices provide processes to address the conflicts that peer mediation can't handle: those that involve a pronounced power imbalance between parties; and those that involve serious misbehavior. This enables schools to be more comprehensive and consistent in their response to conflict.

    Though there are regions of the United States where RP is more common, overall it is still very new here. Other countries, including England, Australia and New Zealand, have been at this work a bit longer.

    I'll return to this topic in the future, as there is much more to say about Restorative Practices than I have space for in a single issue.

    In the meantime, please share your thoughts... Have you used Restorative Practices in your school? What has been your experience?

    International Institute for Restorative Practices
    A wonderful resource which offers training as well as books and videos for purchase. IIRP is also a graduate school (the first of its kind!) devoted to the study of Restorative Practices.

    Transforming Conflict
    A UK-based provider of written resources and training.

    Center for Restorative Justice
    A community-engaged academic center committed to the promotion of restorative justice practices, principles, and values in New England, USA.

    Restorative Practices in Three Scottish Councils
    An interesting and recently completed final evaluation of the progress of implementing restorative practices in 18 Scottish schools (elementary through high school).

  • Restorative Practices Workshop in November
  • Richard Cohen will be presenting a dynamic workshop, "Introduction to Restorative Practices," on November 28th. The workshop is sponsored by Project Alliance and will held in Lowell, Massachusetts. Cost is $25. Visit the link below for more information.

    Restorative Practices Workshop

  • Richard Cohen Interested in Working Abroad in 2008
  • Richard Cohen is hoping to work outside the United States for four months between July 2008 and January 2009. If you or your organization would benefit from having Richard's expertise close at hand, please follow the link below.

    More Info...

  • About Us
  • For twenty-three years, School Mediation Associates has been devoted to the application and promotion of mediation in schools. SMA's mission is to transform schools into safer, more caring, and more effective institutions. Our books and training programs have been utilized by tens of thousands of people around the world.

    Call us: 617-926-0994
    Email us:
    Web us:
    Post us: 134w Standish Road,
    Watertown, MA 02472 USA

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