Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2010

Publication Title

Journal of Educational Administration and Foundations

Volume

21

Issue

2

First Page

35

Last Page

60

Keywords

Safe Schools Act-Ontario, Restorative justice, School safety, Studies

Abstract

Under the supervision of the board's superintendent responsible for implementation of the Safe Schools legislation and with the support of its senior administration, a committee was selected that included nine principals and four vice-principals. The goal of this committee was to research restorative justice practices and to become familiar with what has been developed and implemented across Ontario. Input was sought from the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF). One of Ontario's leading consultants facilitated the RJ training and provided expertise and guidance in the implementation of restorative justice in the pilot schools. RJ training began in August 2009 with three days of introduction and orientation workshops. A scaffolding approach was used to integrate and disseminate RJ training in the pilot schools: Training was to be provided for the administration, teachers, support staff, and key staff members in the pilot schools. In addition to the guidance provided by the RJ consultant, additional supports were made available to the pilot project participants through board staff, the Director of Mediation Services at the local university, and trained restorative-practice coaches. These coaches, administrators from three of the seven schools, were able to demonstrate restorative practices to participating teachers both in relation to students' office visits and classroom behaviors that required teachers' interventions.

Office visits. The quantitative analysis indicated that with regard to students' trips to the office for disciplinary purposes at both elementary and secondary levels, RJ responses remained the same and non-RJ responses decreased. Overall, the number of office visits tended to decrease. RJ practitioners reported during focus groups that they believed issues tended to be handled in the classroom community, which resulted in fewer office visits, and that there were more impromptu RJ circles in the classroom. One teacher indicated that RJ practices facilitated, "students policing themselves." They also indicated confidence in the decisions they made that may have reduced the number of office visits and confidence in the decisions made at the office level that resulted in the reduction of non-RJ responses at the office level. They also reported fewer repeat visits and that "frequent flyers" were able to go back to the classroom faster. In terms of student empowerment, practitioners reported a focus on resolution rather than punishment, with one teacher stating, "Students reach answers and are not given answers."

It was hypothesized that in RJ schools, regardless of level, at T2 there would be a significant increase in the number of RJ office visit response types and a reduction in the number of non-RJ office visit response types. Although the number of RJ office visit responses were not reduced over T2, as was noted, the number of safety and suspendable infractions were. As suggested in the discussion, teachers involved in RJ practices were more likely to deal with issues requiring RJ responses in the classroom community. This aligns with the research on RJ, confirming that students are accountable to others in the classroom and are provided with a clean slate to start over (Lockhart & Zammit, 2005). This conclusion also demonstrates the benefit of a restorative as opposed to a zero-tolerance response. Focus group interview participants at all levels shared perceptions of strengthened relationships among students and empowered students' voices regarding the resolution of behavioral issues involving themselves and others, including making amends to the victim and restoring the offenders to the community. It was also hypothesized that for the high school level, at T2 there would be significantly fewer absences. For all other levels, there would be no significant differences. Interestingly, absences were reduced at the senior level. Students at this level choose to attend or not. If the climate is inclusive and safe, it makes sense that they would feel more welcome in the classroom, which would reduce their selective absence.

Comments

This article was first published in the Journal of Educational Administration and Foundations. For more open access content from this journal visit http://jeaf.ca/index.php/jeaf/index

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