PMHS Justice Committee presents at Pittsfield Listens monthly series
Posted January 27, 2014
What is Restorative Justice? What does it have to do with Student Centered Learning? Why is it a good fit for the Pittsfield Middle High School? Community members joined together for the Pittsfield Listens monthly Community Connection on Thursday January 16th at the Pittsfield Youth Workshop to learn more. Following a presentation from students with the Justice Committee (JC), participants broke into small groups to ask questions and share feedback. The following are some highlights of what was learned and feedback from participants.
What is Restorative Justice? Restorative Justice is an alternative discipline system focused on fixing the harms inflicted on the community. It helps reduce suspensions and detentions and helps students learn to take responsibility for their actions instead of simply being punished for their offenses. In the Pittsfield Middle High School version of Restorative Justice, they focus on student to student mediation, training students to conduct sessions between both the responsible party and the affected party and help both parties come to an agreement which suits the affected party’s needs and to support the responsible party in repairing the harm they caused. “A Restorative Justice system’s primary purpose is to repair the harms that have occurred, focusing on how to make the situation right for the victim and the community, as well as how to support the responsible party as they come to understand the effects of their behavior and take responsibility for their actions. This creates participation and a sense of obligation on the part of everyone involved,” shared Morgan, a PMHS JC member.
Participants of the Community Connection raised some concerns, including the potential for bias with students and staff involved on the Justice Committee. PMHS teacher and JC Advisor Jenny Wellington shared that “Students and staff go through an extensive training. They learn the importance of keeping confidentiality and about recognizing bias. Also, Advisors are very intentional in choosing which Justice Committee members to bring to a case.”
The JC requested feedback from community members of when to notify a parent or guardian that their child/ward is meeting with the Justice Committee. One group suggested to notify as soon as the incident occurs. Another said it depended on the severity of the case. The third group requested foe when it is first brought to the JC and also when it is resolved.
Overall, the response from community members was optimistic, sharing that “it seems more realistic than the traditional system and it helps students to gain life skills.” One parent shared “I was concerned at first. Now I understand it more. This process brings hope for more equity and fairness for students. This is a good and needed change for PMHS.”
Erin Butler, parent of a PMHS student, reflected that she “wanted to see what Restorative Justice was all about and how it’s going to work. I think it’s going to very good for the kids. It’s really important for students to hold each other accountable and work as a group and a community and all work towards the same goals…I think it’s different for the kids when their peers come to them instead of the teacher. It’s more effective- not just at the school level- eventually it will be brought to their homes and they bring that respect to the community so it will be much better for everybody.