April O'Neil / news@WHMI.com (press release)

Howell, MI: School leaders across Livingston County were the first to complete Livingston ESA’s Restorative Practices Learning Series.

The series was designed to introduce and develop restorative practices with school teams across the county and help schools integrate these practices so that they become a part of the culture and ultimately make a positive difference for kids and families.

Restorative practices acknowledge that harmful behavior stems from a root cause. Rather than solely concentrating on cause and effect, restorative practices focus on the conflict or harm that has occurred, repairing the harm, preventing reoffense, and building relationships rather than exclusively punishing students for their actions.

This can be particularly effective in promoting healing in situations where instances of trauma or disability are present.

“We're thrilled to bring this kind of training to our school leaders," said Jonathan Tobar, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Learning for Livingston ESA. "We believe that this kind of focus on restorative practices will serve our students and families incredibly well, and we're excited to see the positive impact it will have throughout the county."

The series, facilitated by Bill Boyle, covered a range of important topics, including developing a deep understanding of purpose and affective language, facilitating restorative support and integration, and solving problems of practice.

Participants were also able to dive deep into some of the key tools and techniques, such as Listening Circles, that make restorative practices so effective.

Boyle said, “What we're trying to do in restorative practices is hold people accountable to harm they've created for the sake of the one who was hurt, or the sake of the community that might have been hurt, but also for their own sake. Because it's through those accountability processes that we actually learn and grow.”

Patty Higgins, Dean of Students at Pinckney Community Schools, said, “We're in education to serve kids. And kids who are healthy emotionally, mentally, physically, and academically will grow up to be amazing adults who will impact our country in such positive, amazing ways. If we want Livingston County to be where people want to come to, we need a community that shows we value kids and that what we value, we put time and energy into what we value, even if it's hard. And so putting energy into restoring kids' ability to repair their mistakes will make a huge difference in their lives.”

Restorative justice practices focus on repairing the harm caused by conflicts and building positive relationships between students, teachers, and the community.

This model promotes empathy, accountability, and communication skills and ensures that students receive support for their growth and development instead of being punished or shamed.