Restorative Justice in Education

Circles in Schools & Youth Justice Lab

The North Shore Restorative Justice Society's Schools Initiative was a proud recipient of the District of North Vancouver's Outstanding Supporters of Youth Award in 2017. 

Since 2013, we have been facilitating and sharing restorative practices across North Shore elementary and high schools with tremendous success. Our Schools Initiative utilizes a strengths-based education approach to provide children and youth the skills to transform conflict, heal relationships and create stronger communities. This Initiative was developed in response to the high number of youth files NSRJS has received from police over the last 21 years through our Restorative Response program. Many youth end up in conflict with the law because they feel isolated, excluded and have not learned effective conflict management skills. The Schools Initiative is a direct, preventative response to these issues.  We currently work with 5 different partner schools across the North Shore – providing 15 weekly Circles to over 350 students.

Every week, trained facilitators sit in Circle with students, teachers, administrators, and support staff, and lead a series of developmentally-appropriate activities and discussions that result in a greater awareness of themselves and others. Topics include identity, diversity and stereotyping, empathy, peer pressure, mediation and conflict-resolution, self-inquiry, self-awareness, self-regulation, community building, and communication, as well as distinguishing between needs, rights, and responsibilities. These issues reinforce the core competencies of the new BC curriculum, particularly the Personal & Social, and Communication competencies. Our program works within social-emotional learning frameworks being used in individual classrooms and in alignment with our School District partners.

The long-term goal of the Schools Initiative is to build a restorative culture within each school community. This means that restorative values and practices are utilized beyond each classroom participating in the weekly Circles. Moreover, our organization aims to transition to a whole-school restorative justice model which means moving toward implementing a full spectrum of restorative justice practices from proactive to reactive in schools across the North Shore. The whole-school restorative justice model means having policies and processes in place for restorative practices at three levels: inclusive and preventative practices at a universal level (in every classroom), targeted responses to problems and conflicts through an equity and diversity lens, as well as intensive supports for reintegrating students with complex behaviors at risk of exclusion from school.  

What students who participate have to say:

“I really liked learning about other people and being able to find topics where we had the same point of view. Circles really made a lot of personal connections for me and I feel I got to know some people better.” - J, Gr 6 

“I enjoyed everything about Circle. It was great to learn new things about myself and open up and talk about things I wouldn’t normally.” – E, Gr 11 

“There is no words for how much this helped me understand where people are coming from and learn a lot about them.” – S, Gr 4      

What teachers who participate have to say:

“If we could do more Circles that would be amazing!" Grade 3/4 Teacher

 “It allowed me time to get to know my students on a more meaningful level without having to worry about facilitating, running and planning a lesson”. - Grade 7 Teacher  

"I enjoyed learning more about my students with many of your thought-provoking prompts and questions." - Grade 4/5 Teacher

JUSTICE LAB INITIATIVES

The Youth Justice Lab was born in response to the many unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the summer of 2020, we welcomed 15 youth, 6 guest speakers, and 9 mentors to a transformative six weeks together. Over that period, we dove deep into issues of social and Restorative Justice (RJ), including the Indigenous Roots of RJ, decolonization, racial struggles, multi-generational activism, art as a vehicle for change, and a lot more. The success of this pilot program inspired us to expand our services centering youth, and the initiatives below branch out from this pioneering endeavor. You can read more about the inaugural Youth Justice Lab in our program report. 

Summer Justice Lab

The Summer Justice Lab is an online participatory course open to North Shore youth between 15 and 19 years old.  Between July and August, we will gather weekly to hear from NSRJ staff and a variety of guest speakers on issues of justice and their many intersections. You can expect to dive deep, as we will get into group discussions where each of our perspectives is fundamental to collective learning and growth. You will also join a smaller group to meet regularly and develop a project for your community. You will meet mentors, ask big questions, and perhaps even make new friends. In the words of a previous participant: “It [the Lab] exceeded my expectations! I honestly wasn't expecting to find such a strong sense of community!”. If this sounds like the right program for you or someone that you know, please sign up to be notified when applications are open for the 2021 Summer Justice Lab.

School Justice Lab

Starting in February of 2021, we are bringing our Youth Justice Lab model into schools! With our partners at Queensbury Elementary, Sutherland Secondary, and Mountainside Secondary, we are launching a ten-week in-class School Justice Lab program. Similar to our other Justice Lab Initiatives, NSRJ staff and guest speakers will collaborate to explore issues of social and Restorative Justice in engaging ways. We are connecting with teachers to co-create a program that is relevant to each class and their unique needs. Given COVID-19 guidelines, the School Justice Lab is likely to start online, yet we would love to plan for in-person sessions if restrictions allow. If you are interested in bringing our program to your school, please get in touch