• Restorative Practices

    Posted by Tara Seekins on 10/2/2017 8:00:00 AM

    Do the best you can until you know better.  Then, when you know better, do better.

    --Maya Angelou


    Our Restorative Justice system at Willow Creek Academy has two important elements:  our Maya Angelou Center for Restorative Practices (known here on campus as “MAC”) and our Student Support Specialists for grades K-4 and grades 5-8.   This program began as a pilot in 2013 and has grown to be an integral part of our school culture.


    Our Restorative Justice system is based on the following principles:


    • Building a strong and inclusive school culture (our “social fabric”) prevents misconduct.
    • Any misconduct tears the social fabric of our school community.
    • Students learn from mistakes when they reflect on and repair the harm caused by their misconduct.
    • Addressing the root causes of misconduct is critical to resolving it.
    • Where appropriate, our community seeks alternatives to discipline that excludes.


    Our over-arching goals are for all students to conduct themselves as responsible members of our school community and for our Upper School students, in particular, to serve as positive role models for younger students.  In practice, three main components of this work help us to meet these goals:


    Community Building:  All students attend class meetings each day, where they practice positive communication protocols, connect with their classmates, and problem-solve together.  Students in grades 1-8 attend our daily morning assembly where they reaffirm their intention to contribute positively to our school community.  Our counselors offer groups where selected students (generally students referred by their teachers) practice pro-social skills development.


    Family Group Conferencing:  Our staff members use Student Study Team (SST) meetings as a first resort to support students who are experiencing crisis, transition, or other challenges.  These meetings bring together the adults who are important in a student’s life (including extended family members, coaches, youth ministers, etc.) for a conversation about the student’s strengths, our areas of concern, strategies tried, and new strategies the team would like to try.  SSTs help us to identify and resolve the root causes of issues that can negatively impact student learning. 


    Restorative Process:  If a student moves through the progressive discipline system in his or her classroom (typically a system of warnings and escalating consequences), he or she will be referred to MAC to participate in a restorative process.  At MAC, the student will reflect on the misconduct individually with his or her Student Support Specialist; the student will contact his or her family to discuss the misconduct; and, in grades 2-8, the student will complete community enrichment[1] at the school site in order to restore to the community what his or her conduct took away.  A typical MAC session involves one or two students from a particular classroom and takes place during an elective class.


    The reflection component of a MAC session encourages students to be honest with themselves about what they can do to make changes in their behaviors and relationships.  The focus is on helping students feel empowered to make good decisions that will improve themselves and their community.  While the focus is restorative and not punitive, we expect students to take MAC seriously.  Any student who does not successfully complete any element of his or her MAC session will face consequences through the traditional school discipline system.


    Our Student Support Specialists, Carlos Gonzalez (K-4), Phil Logan (5-8) and Jasmin Hall (5-8) are integral to the implementation of Restorative Practices at Willow Creek.  Mr. Carlos, Mr. Phil, and Ms. Jasmin closely monitor students in classrooms and at recesses, they lead social skills groups, they provide insight and encourage family involvement during SST meetings, and they facilitate every element of our restorative process.  Please see their bios (attached) for more information on the skills and passion they bring to this critically important work.


    Over the past five years that we have implemented elements of Restorative Practices at Willow Creek, we have seen a dramatic decline in our referral and suspension rates for all students.  This means both that students are receiving the support they need to participate fully in classroom learning activities and that our school climate is a safer, friendlier, and more peaceful place for all our students.


    We welcome your questions and feedback about Restorative Practices at Willow Creek.  Please direct any inquiries to Tara Seekins, Head of School at 415-331-7530, ext. 213.


    [1] Community enrichment may include:  planning and delivering on an act of kindness, creating a presentation or art project focused on an aspect of community, teaching a short lesson on character or kindness in a younger grade classroom, or completing a more traditional form of community service such as campus beautification.


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