Today I had the pleasure of attending the San Diego Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices Summit, along with ~400 fellow community members and restorative justice supporters. I was amazed to see politicians, police officers, educators, and community organizations working together to support the safety and wellbeing of our community.
I was reminded today that restorative justice isn't just another initiative. It's a lens through which to view the world, a lens that allows us to see offenders, victims, misbehaving children as fellow human beings. It allows us to better understand how our own reactions can support the human beings around us. It allows us to break cycles of poverty, trauma, neglect, and abuse. It allows us to see that people exposed to trauma and toxic stress often act in ways that allow them a temporary way out of hopelessness. When our culture is one of punishment, we are compounding the effects of racism, bias, poverty, trauma... but when we begin to shift our culture to one of human interaction and connection, we restore hope, and begin to transform our communities.
As educators, it is our responsibility to ensure that we are helping to break cycles of poverty, trauma, and toxic stress. We need to shift our interactions with students from "what is wrong with you?" to first asking "what's going on?" Restorative justice isn't the end-all, be-all of education, and it's certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach; rather, it can offer a framework for allowing us to determine how we can support the needs of the students in our school communities. In adopting a restorative mindset- in seeing others as fellow human beings- we become more human ourselves.