Dryden Mills, Senior Associate for Strategic Initiatives & Partnerships at JPEF, led the first of our quarterly Advocacy Nights to educate and activate community members to take action on issues central to our work
JPEF had the pleasure of holding the first of its quarterly Advocacy Nights on Monday, September 20, 2021. We have launched this series of events to educate and activate community members to act on issues central to our work. The topic of this event was Restorative Justice in Schools.
Over the summer, participants of our Teacher Leadership and School Leadership Initiatives took a deep dive into the topic of restorative justice and restorative practices in schools. As opposed to a traditional response to behavioral conflict that focuses on punitive responses to broken rules and punishments, restorative justice takes a healing-centered approach to repair the harm caused by conflict and build a strong, safe community.
Stemming from that work, we partnered with the Center for Children’s Rights and the Jacksonville Urban League to bring our network of public education advocates into the fold. The group was presented with an introduction to restorative justice, its importance in the school context, and examples of restorative practices in action. Speakers from our partner organizations shared their work and provided participants with opportunities to get involved.
One of our School Leadership Initiative residents, Principal Claire St. Amand of Bayview Elementary, spoke on the restorative practices she has implemented in the daily routine at her school. Each day starts off with a classroom circle where teachers check in with their students and start the day on a positive note.
“It allows the adults to do things with the students, instead of to, for, or at them,” she said.
Having these open circles builds those positive relationships, and helps educators identify and meet the needs of children, preventing behavioral conflicts and better equipping teachers and students to address them when they arise.
St. Amand said, “If you have a positive relationship with your kids, they’re going to work for you, and therefore their behavior is going to improve, their work is going to improve.”
We had a wide range of community members in attendance. Parents were able to connect with our speakers to learn how they can advocate for restorative practices in their children’s schools. Teachers left feeling inspired to better implement these practices in their classrooms. We even had an aspiring teacher who was excited to be learning about restorative justice for the first time. Overall, the feedback we received from participants indicated that this was a valuable and engaging learning experience.