Restorative Justice – Advice to a Parent
By Paul Langhorst October 4, 2012
Following up on my post earlier this week on restorative justice, where I highlighted a new article, Restorative Justice: The Opportunities and Challenges, by CyberBully Hotline contributor, Janet M. Irvine, I would like share a new article that I ran across in my daily reading – Mr. Dad: Fight Bullies with Restorative Justice, by Armin Brott.
In this article, a dad posts a question of how to respond after learning that is son is being bullied by an older child at school and is now pleading “not to have to go to school.” Brott first addresses “Mr. Dad” and praises him for questioning his son and persevering with dialog until the son comes clean with his bullying problem. Brott then goes on to explain how schools have handled bullying in the past: ineffective peer mediation (bringing the bully and victim together); and even more infective, bully group counseling (bringing all the purported bullies together). Brott ends with an explanation of “restorative justice,” sharing an example of how if a bully smashed a kids lunch box, the bully would be required to replace the lunch box.
I encourage you to read Brott’s full article, which can be found here.
As Janet Irvine pointed out in her article, about the challenges of implementing a restorative justice program, the technique holds significant long-term potential for reduction in bullying behavior, however the downside is that it takes significant time and training for one to become skilled in the process. Furthermore, the penalties for non-compliance with the restorative justice measures are often voluntary or subject to bully-parent participation (the bully-parent providing money for the replacement lunch box) and the same weakly enforced policies of the institution that allowed the bullying to happen in the first place.
In a perfect world, the lunch box would be replaced and bully-victim would be come friends and ride off in the sunset together. When restorative justice works, it works well, and the results can be long lasting. The challenge is developing the skill and infrastructure to allow it to work.
If your school is seeking to develop a restorative justice program, here are some helpful links to additional information:
- Restorative Justice – A guide for school: http://www.restorativejustice.org/RJOB/illinoisschoolguide
- Restorative Justice Implementation Guides: http://www.promoteprevent.org/node/3364
- Implementing Restorative Justice: http://www.icjia.state.il.us/public/pdf/BARJ/SCHOOL%20BARJ%20GUIDEBOOOK.pdf