THE PHILOSOPHY OF RESTORATIVE ACTION
The advancement of Restorative Justice in British Columbia as a community-based response to crime and wrongdoing has also spread into the B.C. school system under the name of Restorative Action.
The principles of Restorative Justice encourage us to look at wrongdoing—even if it’s not criminal wrongdoing—as harm done to relationships and people. In a school setting, wrongdoing is often viewed as breaking the rules, with some kind of punishment as a consequence. Restorative Justice, however, challenges us to look beyond traditional, punitive responses to a deeper level of analysis:
- Who has been harmed?
- How have relationships been affected?
- How has this act impacted the school community?
- What harm has been done?
- What is needed to repair this harm, and to heal this broken relationship?
- What is needed so the affected parties can move on from this in a positive way, with no lingering bad feelings?
- What steps need to be taken to prevent future harm?
The effectiveness of Restorative Justice is that it can resolve situations so that ongoing conflicts between the same parties are avoided.
Unlike the application of Restorative Justice in the judicial setting where there is a clearly identified victim and offender, school-based cases are not usually so black and white. Frequently both parties feel victimized—and both parties may have committed wrongful acts against the other. School-based conflict can be insidious, spreading throughout a group of students; or subtle, in which the underlying issues are not clearly recognizable. Restorative Action is an appropriate name for a school-based process that isn’t linked to the justice system, but applies restorative principles and values to a process of conflict resolution.