The National Center for Restorative Justice has been working closely with West Seattle H.S. this year to help develop and implement a robust system of restorative justice and practices. Mia Stroutsos and Michael Grant are the key leaders of this initiative, and I recently asked them about this important work.
-What are you folks up to at West Seattle HS?
We're working with the students, staff, and administration at West Seattle High School to shift school-wide culture and discipline towards restorative justice. We are primarily trying to build a culture of relationships in the school, using community building circles as an entry point. These circles have taken a number of forms, from PRIDE Circles during Advisory time (PRIDE is the school's new community focus this year= Persistent, Respectful, Involved, Diverse, Engaged), to community building circles with staff and administration during all-staff meetings. We work to make circles routine, comfortable, and meaningful, so that when conflict arises we have a practice in place (and trained facilitators at the school) to respond to harm.
-What successes have you had so far?
One success has been emerging staff and student cohorts who are helping guide this work. They are a group of committed stakeholders who work to deepen their own RJ practice and understanding, facilitate circles and trainings throughout the school, and advise on the implementation processes. They are the experts of their own school, and we're lucky to be partnering with them.
-Hopes for the future?
We have so many hopes for the future! We hope that circles continue to infuse into the fabric of the school, so that students and staff have an outlet for responding to their own conflicts and building community together. We hope that students have a meaningful voice in this process, and that their wisdom and needs are prioritized. We hope to align this work with the fight to dismantle racism and other oppressions within our school system.