As usual, I jotted the reminders down on a yellow legal pad, then went to grab my coat from the closet. That's when I heard shouting from the hallway. After years working in New York City as a dean, I could immediately tell this was not the typical rowdiness at dismissal time, but a severe confrontation about to erupt
When Emilio* first walked into our offices, he looked disheveled. He shuffled through the door wearing sagging pants and an oversized t-shirt. He was standoffish, barely answering basic questions, not making eye contact, and I immediately caught the smell of weed as he placed his jacket down on a chair next to mine...
As the host yelled “Go!,” and the students began furiously devouring the slices of wet, pink watermelon, something immediately felt off. As I watched one of our darkest skinned students, up on stage, in front of a hooting and hollering crowd, digging into the watermelon, my eyes flitted quickly and uncomfortably around the auditorium. I locked eyes with a fellow staff member and I could tell that she was in disbelief...
One day, a group of people who had graduated from the leadership workshop, came to my office. They were complaining about the affordable housing units in which they were living. This housing was created to give people affordable housing people living in the quickly gentrifying neighborhood of lower Park Slope. Across the street from building were some housing projects with visible criminal activities occurring daily. On the other side of the building was a large avenue, with a steady presence of sex workers, which also brought in a lot of drugs and violence and so on. So, between the projects and the sex work, my people were somewhat fearful that they might get caught up in a police sweep or in a shooting. They came to my office wanting to do something about this. But they were very clear that they didn’t want to call the cops and simply have them do a sweep and arrest everybody. A lot of my new leaders felt victimized by this type of prosecution in the past and they didn’t want to put others through the same injustice. They wanted to do something different.
When I heard the commotion, I grabbed my black radio and hurried quickly out of the Restorative Justice office just in time to see Javier (not his real name), a Junior student, punch in the plexiglass window on a hallway display case. The principal of our high school was standing nearby and several students and teachers had popped their heads out of doorways to see what was happening. Other support staff and I quickly walked Javier into our office to cool down and began talking with him and interviewing others to piece together exactly what had happened.
The first lightbulb moment for me was when I got to attend a restorative justice training, at G--------- H.S. in Seattle, for high school students. Being surrounded by so many other young learners who shared an interest in this work was incredibly validating. It showed me that I wasn’t the only one who felt that things had to change in our schools, and the energy of the other teenagers in the room was electrifying.
I invite everyone to attend the Northwest Justice Forum, it is the premier Restorative Justice conference in the Northwest. This year we have the pleasure of Erin Jones conducting the pre-conference training. Erin Jones is a leader of all things equity across Washington State. I never attend pre-conference trainings, but I will be there for sure! Hope to see you there!
NEW YORK — He knew instantly he’d made a mistake. At the last minute, he tried to protect the woman, but that only angered her assailant, who hit her harder, knocking her to the ground.
That assailant was someone Daryl Mensah-Bonsu, then 15, had considered a friend, a more popular teen who invited him along to visit some girls in Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay neighborhood. He says he had never been in trouble before and was pressured into stealing the woman’s pocketbook along the way.