West Leadership Academy (WLA) operates from a philosophy called Restorative Approaches. The Restorative Approaches Process promotes building relationships and strengthening community bonds, while supporting student growth toward self-discipline, accepting responsibility, and appreciating the rights of others. It is our desire at WLA to maintain an environment where students grow and thrive intellectually, socially, and emotionally. This restorative philosophy also guides our interventions.
The Restorative Philosophy at West Leadership Academy challenges the idea that suspensions are an effective disciplinary tool; therefore, suspensions are only implemented when absolutely necessary. Instead, WLA prefers to utilize inclusionary techniques that seek to help students identify how misbehavior impacts their education, as well as the education of their classmates. Some techniques that WLA uses are:
- Lunch Intervention
- Community Service (on school grounds)
- In-School Suspension (when appropriate and necessary)
We at West Leadership Academy understand that the term discipline refers to training, and WLA’s objective is to help train our scholars to be prepared to make positive choices in life that will help them to become successful adults.
UNDERSTANDING RESTORATIVE APPROACHES at West Leadership Academy
A Restorative Process: Students involved in a Restorative Intervention partake in a process to help them identify their role in a situation/conflict and the extent to which they’re responsible for repairing or resolving the issue. This may take place in any number of forms, some of which are:
- Empathic Listening: A way of listening and responding to another person that encourages mutual respect and trust. It allows the listener to receive and accurately understand the speaker’s message and provide an appropriate response.
- Conferencing: Provides an opportunity to explore what happened, how the participants felt about it, what needs to happen to make things right, and how the situation might be prevented in the future.
- Mediation: A voluntary and confidential process whereby a neutral third party assists those in conflict to resolve their problem collaboratively and peacefully. The parties in conflict have complete decision making power, thereby providing a more vested interest in the outcome and encouraging more commitment to the final agreement.
- Circles: An inclusive opportunity for those directly and indirectly involved in a conflict to express feelings, concerns and personal values in an environment that promotes open and diverse perspective sharing. Circles are an effective tool for conflict prevention and de-escalation.
A Restorative culture promotes feelings of belonging and inclusion. Restorative philosophy views misbehavior as harm caused, creating an obligation that needs to be identified and repaired, specifically by the person responsible for causing the harm. In a restorative approach, misbehavior and poor decision-making are seen as valuable learning opportunities and seeks to strengthen community bonds by working through the learning process together.
On the other hand, a punitive approach often excludes and ostracizes students, focusing almost exclusively on punishment, and causing the offender to be more resentful and often more defiant. Bonds are torn down, hostility is elevated, and often a power struggle ensues.
It’s important to remember that as adults in a school, it is our responsibility to help teach and guide our students not only academically, but in all facets of life. A lot of love and support is needed to nourish a happy and healthy student. We can help them meet those needs with little effort, for example, empathic listening. Sitting and truly listening to a student may cost 10-30 minutes of an already packed day; but making a student feel valued is priceless, and the payout lasts a lifetime.
***Special thanks to Skinner Middle School for assistance with the wording of WLA’s Restorative Practices and Philosophy.