When writing the text for What are you staring at?, a graphic novel about restorative justice in a school setting, I couldn’t resist taking a side-swipe at the antiquated system of school detentions, as a repost to the endlessly repeated rhetoric calling for ‘discipline’ to be brought back into the nation’s schools. By pointing out that more often than not, slapping a detention on a young person for wrong-doing is actively counterproductive, I hope to illustrate how ineffective a punitive system is for resolving behavioural issues or engendering self-discipline within a school community. In one of Joseph Wilkins’ most evocative images, our protagonist, Jake, is seen sitting alone in a large classroom. He is serving a detention for punching Ryan, a pupil in the year below, and we see him simmering with anger and resentment at the injustice of it all. At this point in the book, no one has taken the trouble to tease out the story behind his violent behaviour, and because the punishment hurts (as it is designed to) he is minded to take revenge on the very person he harmed in the first place – namely the innocent Ryan – for being the ongoing cause of his pain. Precious little scope there for reflection, understanding, resolution or healing. Continue reading
In this article, Bill Hansberry reflects upon his new book to discuss the importance of restorative justice as a constructive approach to conflict resolution in schools compared to traditional punitive methods. Suitable for education settings from preschool to school, A Practical Introduction to Restorative Practice in Schools explains what restorative justice is, how it can be used in schools, what it looks like in the classroom and how it can be implemented. It is an essential resource for any school or centre that is serious about reducing bad behaviour and developing safer learning communities.
Restorative Practices are not for the faint-hearted. They demand that our work in schools be less political and more human. This demands that, when things go wrong in schools, we empathise with students (and those who love them) and move into emotional spaces with them that we may not have occupied previously. Restorative practices are not a discipline from a distance. They are up close, personal and at times confronting, which is at odds with the direction that many schools are taking their disciplinary systems. As communities become increasingly disconnected and fearful of one another, responses to conflict, harm and wrongdoing that bring people and their difficult emotions face to face can seem too risky for many, yet schools who have bravely embraced restorative practices have found that this is a risk well worth taking. Continue reading