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Circles

Circles are used in schools at all levels of the pyramid to bring people together in a way that gives voice to every individual. Circles at the first tier (for the whole school or classroom) support School-Wide Prevention Practices; problemsolving circles are used at the second tier for those involved in Managing Difficulties; and intervention circles are used at the third tier for those persons and situations that require Intense Intervention.

“Daily check-ins” are conducted in circles and provide students with the opportunity to talk about where they are each day. In all cases, participants get an opportunity to speak without interruption while others listen. It is an egalitarian method of communication that can be used to celebrate successes, discuss challenging topics, make decisions, or address wrongdoing. Participants literally sit in a circle so that everyone can see everyone else. There is no implied hierarchy in the seating arrangement.

Typically there is an opening or an opportunity to differentiate the time in circle as separate from time outside the circle. An object of some symbolic nature or talking piece is used to encourage active listening and to facilitate speaking openly and honestly. Participants determine guidelines regarding how they will be in circle. All decisions in circles are made by consensus. The circle is brought to an end with another short reflection or opportunity to honor the time and contributions participants have made during the time in circle. 

Routines


Routines are utilized at the primary tier, Schoo lWide Prevention Practices. They encompass a system of creating classroom values, adhering to them, discussing them, questioning them, and reviewing them together. 

Peer Mediation


Peer mediation is usually conducted at the second tier, Managing Difficulties. It involves a neutral third party or parties (mediators), whose role is to support those in conflict to come to a mutually acceptable resolution, or to find a way of moving forward. Peer mediators may be elementary, middle, or high school students trained in the skills and processes of conflict resolution, mediation, and restorative dialogue. The role of the peer mediator is to help students resolve and/or manage conflict before it becomes harmful. Some peer mediation programs operate under restorative principles while others do not. 

Relational Practices


Relational practices, conducted at the first tier, School-Wide Prevention Practices, make space in the classroom to resolve conflict. The ongoing practice of daily check-ins is a relational practice as it includes everyone in an activity and helps students and staff get to know each other and also understand where they are on a particular day. Daily check-ins can be facilitated in circle. Relational practices aim to understand how individuals in the classroom or school community, including parents and other providers, relate to one another. Attention is paid to relationships among students, among teachers, and between students and teachers, and between school staff and families. The practices help to strengthen relationships in the school and classroom, build social/emotional intelligence, and identify

Restorative Conversation and Conferences


Restorative conversations and conferences are conducted at the second tier, Managing Difficulties, in order to prevent harm. They are informal conversations using restorative language with those involved in a potential conflict. Restorative conferencing is a broad term that encompasses a range of practices with some subtle and some significant differences. Restorative conferencing is conducted at the third level of the pyramid, Intense Intervention. All conferencing models involve face-to-face encounters between those directly impacted by the event and individuals who support each of them. Some conferences involve others who have been indirectly affected by the incident. Led by a trained facilitator, the conference seeks to identify, repair, and prevent harm. Family Group Conferencing (FGC) typically sets aside “private family time” during the conference where the youth and the immediate caregivers create the first draft of the plan to make things right. Other conferencing models include the person harmed in the entire conference. Some conferencing models are heavily scripted while others allow for a more organic facilitation style.

Peer Juries


Peer juries—also known as teen court, youth court, or peer court—are also conducted at the third tier, Intense Intervention. It is a process popular in the Chicago Public Schools. The practice involves student volunteers who hear cases—typically minor delinquent acts or school offenses—and determine with those directly impacted how to make things as right as possible. Peer juries can be an adversarial or a restorative process. In order for peer juries to be restorative they need to be based on restorative principles; restorative peer juries focus on the harm rather than the rule broken, and ways to repair the harm rather than punitive consequences. 

Follow Up


One of the most important and often neglected components is follow-up. The Restorative Justice coordinator or circle keeper should follow-up with everyone to ensure agreements are kept; they should also continue to maintain communication. It is a good idea to incorporate follow-up into the agreement plan. Reminders, check-ins, and even follow-up circles, conferences, or meetings help increase follow-though, build accountability, and demonstrate integrity of the process to everyone involved. When agreements are kept, trust grows.