Implementing Whole-School Restorative Communication: Policy
© Copyright 2018 William A. Bledsoe, Ph.D.
“I can see the mindfulness inherent in the 7 Principles, but how do we implement them?” – Middle School Principal
To build a whole-school restorative culture which operationalizes these values and principles, it requires incorporating restorative communication practices. There are 4 Pillars to implementation: Policy, Program, Practices, and Pedagogy.
Restorative Policy: It’s a Collective Agreement about Right Relationship
A policy should remind members of their membership…not threaten them with exclusion when they fail. Policy lays out the processes, methods and practices for working through missed-conduct in a way that restores relationships and membership.
A behavioral policy should be a living document that not only promotes values, but clearly lays out how those values are embedded in the way the school resolves incidents that compromise those values.
“When an incident happens that disrupts the classroom or school social environment, our policy is to speak with everyone who was involved or impacted, hear their perspective, understand why it happened, determine what people need to resolve the incident (including repair), and create an agreement to ensure constructive changes are made. This includes students, parents, faculty and administration” – Excerpt from a K12 Behavioral Policy created by Restorative Way for School Client
In this fairly simple statement the school has explained its entire approach to a disruptive incident. Everyone involved has a voice (inclusion).
- Different experiences and perspectives are welcomed and honored (diversity).
- Those involved have equal opportunity to express their feelings (inclusion & equity).
- People involved contribute to and take ownership for resolution (inclusion).
- The agreement ensures changes are made to meet both individual and collective needs (accountability with equity).
There are two other foundational aspects to a restorative policy that are important to mention. First, notice that the above statement is “asset focused.” It articulates and evokes a positive response to an incident rather than a coercive one. In doing so, it establishes a positive communication norm in how the school responds to misconduct. The policy “calls people to their higher selves.”
Second, it’s not just about student behavior. Parents and school professionals are also community members. A behavioral policy should inspire a collective agreement about how all community members move through challenging behavior and conflict using respect-based communication.
When parents, teachers and staff are aspiring to achieve the same positive norms as students, and responding to incidents between themselves using restorative communication, students witness and experience coherency, consistency and continuity.
Restorative communication becomes the norm. Inherent in that norm are the 3 values of respect for diversity, inclusion, and equity.