Maisha Winn Speaks on “Justice on Both Sides: Toward a Restorative Justice Discourse in Schools”

By | September 4, 2019


Good evening. Thank you for joining us my name
is Michal Kurlaender I’m chair of the graduate group in education
which sponsors tonight’s evening event: The Distinguished Education Speakers
series. And I’m going to in a minute turn
the podium over to my colleague who will introduce today’s speaker. But first I want to welcome you on behalf
of the graduate in education which is the multi-disciplinary
group of faculty and students across the university
doing work in education. We’re housed in the School of Education
but we also have colleagues across the social sciences and hard sciences
who care a lot about education. So first, I just want to see
the who’s in the room today. So, if you’re an undergrad here at U.C.
Davis would you please raise your hand. Great, welcome! [APPLAUSE]. How about teacher education students here? Great, great! Other PhD or MA students we have here? Great!
And faculty, across the disciplines? Great! And community members from
our fellow institutions and schools in the Davis-Sacramento area,
if you can raise your hand. [APPLAUSE] Thank you and
welcome to the campus! I also want to extend a warm
welcome to provost Hexter who’s also joining us here tonight. Thank you so much for coming. And I’m going to turn it over to my
colleague professor Steve Athanasas who will do the introduction. Thank you. Today’s event is co-hosted by my
colleague Professor Danny Martinez and I. The two of us who have planned the day and Danny asked me to give
the introduction but first let me just introduce Danny who’s
been the co host for the events today. Thank you Danny! [APPLAUSE]. So I’m really happy to welcome you today
to today’s talk by Professor Maisha Winn. Professor Winn hails from Northern
California where she earned her BA a in English from U.C. Davis [APPLAUSE] with a minor in African-American studies. And her teaching credential
from Sac State in English. She taught K-12 in northern
California then earned her M.A. from Stanford and
her Ph D from U.C. Berkeley. Both degrees in language literacy and
culture. After completing a post-doc at
Teachers’ College Columbia University, Maisha took a position on the faculty at
Emory University in Atlanta where she earned tenure. Since 2012 she’s been on
the faculty of curriculum and instruction at the University of
Wisconsin Madison where she now is the Susan Jake Kelmor distinguished
chair of Teacher Education. Maisha developed an exceptionally
productive research program publishing a number of books and many articles
in many top tier research journals. Among others,
Urban Education Review of Research and Ed, Harvard Educational Review, Anthropology
and Education Quarterly Research in the teaching of English,
Written Communication etc. And she received to early career awards. One from the American Education Research
Association division K in teaching and teacher education and the other from the National Conference
on research and language and literacy. She currently holds a really
exciting William T Grant Foundation fellowship which is an extremely
competitive fellowship in which she’s exploring in greater depth groups that
are featuring restorative justice. As she seeks to envision applications
of such work to education and Teacher Education. So across her work, Maisha seeks to
understand the literate lives of adults and youth from especially
African-American and Latino communities. In her many projects,
she has asked where do literacies occur, particularly for black and brown youth. What forms do they take? What purposes do they serve? When they are powerful, how might
features of those literacy events and sites be explored for their possibilities
as schooling opportunities and activities. I’ve had the pleasure of following Maisha
exceptional career since her Ph D studies. At our first meeting which
was at a conference at U.C. Berkeley, already she emerged even
in her doctoral studies as a fresh voice with deep commitments and
very new perspectives. In her dissertation research,
she was studying poetry and spoken word performance in coffee
houses in Northern California. And here she was drawn to study what
was happening in black owned and black operated bookstores and
cafes in Northern California that were eateries by day and
cultural centers by night. Maisha characterize these spaces as African Diaspora participatory
literacy communities. And she found in those sites that
are orality and literacy, contrary to much of the literature, were really
not distinct but we’re on a continuum. And that the boundaries between speaker
and audience in these spaces Were blurred. In her first book Maisha
documented poetry and spoken word in a program in
a New York school setting. And the book that came out of
that was called “Writing and Rhythms: Spoken Word Poetry
in Urban Classrooms”. Her second book was particularly ambitious
where she used both historical and ethnographic methods to
track the development of black literate lives in the U.S.. So when I think of Maisha’s work, I think across her work of
several defining characteristics. First, careful documentation
with ethnographic methods. Second, historicizing
the literacy practices. Third, situating these
practices within very rich and integrated bodies of literature. And fourth, rigorous analysis. So it’s just one example. She grew interested in the literacy
practices of girls in tangled in the juvenile justice system. And in one study and I just want to highlight this one because
it I think it’s particularly exciting. It’s called The Politics of desire and
possibility and urban playwriting. Rereading and rewriting the script
there are many things to admire about this particular article I was so
impressed when I read it. First shedignifies the experiences of these young women between
the ages of fourteen and seventeen. Over a five year period she
collects their writing, short play scripts and
then she has the audacity to try to analyze themes across
one hundred sixty nine scripts. That is a huge undertaking. And how does one do that and
still preserve the dignity of each voice? And what I see in Maisha’s work constantly
is this commitment to this rigorous cross-cutting analysis and preserving
the voices of the individuals within. Her work on restorative justice very
recently Is I think very promising. And today we are going to
hear her speak on justice on both sides towards a restorative
justice discourse in schools. So let’s give a warm welcome
to Professor Maisha Winn!! [APPLAUSE]
That was an introduction! Thank you! My goodness. He knew more about my work than I do. That was great. Thank you so much Steve. Provost Hexter, thank you for having me. Dean Levine,
the school of education faculty, who I had a chance to meet with and build
with today had an incredible time with you today thank you for your generosity. I know what is packed in your day so
for you to take time means a lot to me. The graduate students and
the undergrads who came and spent time with me today in the school
of education it was incredible. Thank you for your questions. Thank you for your presence and being so engaged intellectually
in the conversation. And you know there are always sort of
these behind the scenes people who do so much and they don’t always get
acknowledged but I really would be greatly were remissed if I did not acknowledge
Cindy Smith who helped get me here. Who you know got me a place to lay my
head and she has just been so generous. I was just telling the Dean that
on Friday I received an e-mail from her Saying I know you’re
traveling this weekend here’s my cell phone in case something comes up so… Thank you so much Cindy for
everything that you did to get me here. U.C. Davis is my alma mater, so
it feels really good to be here. This is the sacred ground for me. The English department
the African-American Studies departments gave me a space to find my voice
especially African-American studies. My brother also is an alum of U.C.
Davis from the history department. My father was a lecturer here in
the late sixty’s early seventy’s. And you know a lot of children have fond
memories of playing on playgrounds and going to amusement parks but a lot of my
memories were actually on this campus. My parents spent a lot of
time on this campus and brought us here black family day. Whole Earth festival. I was here whole earth Festival this year. My husband asked me what I wanted for
Mother’s Day I said I want to go to the whole earth festival and
we were right out there hula hooping. I hope you didn’t see me. [LAUGH]
But I think. For first generation college students
my parents really wanted to demystify the university and they really wanted to
make it a place where we were comfortable. And I’m so grateful to them for
doing that. So, I dedicate this talk today to
them to James and Joel FIssure. “Justice on both sides”. As on so many mornings when I was
a participant observer of restorative justice practices at J.F.K. high school
in a small Midwestern city I stopped to listen when an administrator read
the announcements over the loudspeaker. These were always followed
by the Pledge of Allegiance which caused me to briefly hearken back
to my own days as a student standing with right hand over heart reciting the
words with liberty and justice for all. Which had become mere ritual without
ceremony and felt more like a disruption to the flow of the class than
something worthy of my full attention. After all, no one took time to explicate
the script we had duly memorized nor did we interrogate words such as
liberty or justice in the way I would eventually grapple with them as a
classroom teacher and later as a scholar. On this particular day at J.F.K.
I resisted my natural inclination to tune out the words and heard an administrator
offer a prelude to the pledge and I’m quoting the administrators:
“We live in a nation of freedom. Therefore participation in the Pledge
of Allegiance is voluntary”. This startled me. Did the announcer always make
this statement before the pledge. I asked several teachers and students
in the building if this was new and they assured me that the same
statement was made every single day. After spending most of my time in urban
public schools more focused on controlling the minds, bodies, and
voices of children and youth especially black Latino and American
Indian I marveled that a school community would invite students to be agentive
in their participation of the pledge. I wondered if school communities could
create a culture that values student agency when it comes to democratic
engagement, justice, and citizenship as well as the role of language in
practicing justice in school communities. And what ways if any could Changing from
zero tolerance or punitive discourses to using restorative justice discourse create
a school’s capacity for true justice. In 1990 Howard Zehr challenged Americans specifically those who
considered themselves to be christian to rethink their orientation
toward crime and punishment. According to Zehr,
this requires that people interrogate the usual questions
asked when a crime is committed. What laws have been broken? Who did it? And what do they deserve? Instead we should imagine questions
that consider the human lives impacted by the harm in
order to repair the harm. Quite simply restored of
justice is a paradigm shift. Rather than viewing justice as punishment
restorative justice requires wrongdoing to be put right by addressing the needs
of the persons who experienced harm. While Zehr’s work is not new,
indigenous communities in Canada and New Zealand have long practice
forms of restorative justice. You have an amazing scholar here Beth
Rose Middleton in Native American studies who was lovely in helping
me locate resources in terms of indigenous scholarship around
the origins of restorative justice so I really want to give her credit for
that work. But Zehr’s conceptual mapping of harm
has become the theoretical framework for restorative justice as we know
it as it’s practiced now. As the field has grown there has
been more of an effort to not only consider the needs of those who were
harmed but also those who caused harm. Like many theories concepts and practices, restorative justice has been
adopted by some U.S. public schools. I’m sure many of you know that already. As a response to the disproportionate
numbers of black and Latino students being suspended and
expelled beginning as early as preschool. However very little scholarship
has examined how restorative justice can change language cultures and
mindsets in school communities. And even less that offer theoretically
sound models for how to conceptualize and incorporate restorative
justice as a tool for seeking and achieving justice for
all students. It is irresponsible to discuss
restorative justice in school settings without considering the black
freedom struggle and the struggle for poor and
oppressed peoples in the United States. I have argued that the black arts and
Black Power movements offer powerful models of literacy
in the active pursuit of equality. The black freedom struggle or the black
power movement which is often situated in the 1960s and 1970s (people debate these
dates all the time) is often portrayed as a separate, distinct, and adversarial
cousin to the civil rights movement. Architects of the black power movement
argue that without first liberating poor and oppressed people in the United States
not all citizens would fully experience the concept of democracy or
liberty and justice for all. This barrier to equitable
access to justice is currently being debated
again in the United States. With the intensified policing,
brutality, and out right lethal violence against black
and/or marginalized people in communities, in our schools, and in the juvenile and
criminal justice context. As evidenced, in movements such as “I
stand with Ahmed”, and “Black lives matter”, and “say her name”, Education
organizations have offered statements as for example from the American Educational
Research Association about the mass murder Of worshippers at the Emanuel
African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina. And from the National Council on teachers
of English and college composition on communication Black Caucus affirming
that black lives do indeed matter. The latter posits that teachers
especially writing and composition teachers must grapple with these tensions
through their pedagogical practices. In a stirring letter to
his son cited in the in NCTE Three C’s Black Caucus statement,
journalist Tanesi Coates attempts to address the current climate of violence
toward and murders of black children and youth in a dialogue about the history
of black bodies in America. Coats asserts that his work is guided by,
and I’m quoting him here, “the question of how one should
live within the black body, within a country lost in
the dream” end of quote. It is Coats’s assessment of the roles
that schools play in this disembodiment that I find particularly compelling when
thinking about how restorative justice in schools might redress this problem
experienced by so many of our children. Colts writes and I’m quoting him again
here, “the world had no time for the childhoods of black boys and
girls; How could schools? Algebra, Biology, and
English were not subjects so much as opportunities to
better discipline the body”. He goes on to say, “I was a curious
boy but the schools were not concerned with curiosity; they
were concerned with compliance”. End of quote. This notion of compliance
versus fostering curiosity has been referred to by my colleague
Garrett Duncan as “Urban pedagogies”. That is Schools that primarily serve black
Latino and indigenous working class or working poor youth and their families
sacrifice intellectual rigor for the desire to manage and
control the bodies of these children. And of course Fabritia says
the mind as well in her work. Restorative justice then is an invitation
to maintain academic rigor. It’s an invitation to maintain academic
rigor while also building relationships through consensus building exercises
that provide agentive opportunities for students and teachers to practice justice. Through data I analyzed for a case study
of one high schools movement to implement restorative Justice located in Madison
Wisconsin I argue that the word justice must be kept intact to provide
a historical mapping of oppression, miseducation, and inequality in
the United States public schools. So right now we’re hearing a lot of
talk around restorative conversations, restorative practices, and I keep
seeing that word justice being omitted. We keep dropping justice and I would argue that we can’t
lose sight of the word justice. That is the impetus and
the reason why we’re doing this work. Scholars especially those who work in
educated in teacher education must do what Kris Gutierrez historicize their own lives as well as support pre-service
teachers in historicizing theirs. As they prepare to work with the youth who
have both experienced and caused harm. And while I continue to view
justice as a form of balance, I believe this cannot be achieved
without coming to terms with history. I recently had an opportunity to see
Bryan Stevenson the author of Just Mercy. The book was our campus read this year. And he accepted a social justice award
from the National Council on Crime and delinquency in Madison. And one of the things that he is starting
to do is- he said the next phase of his work and I want to quote him here: “Is
to help people start confronting history”. And he went on to say that
“We are all diseased, and we’re carrying this disease,
and we must talk about it”. So he sees that as the next part of this
work that he’s doing in juvenile and criminal justice. Children and
Youth need the guidance of adult allies engaged in restorative justice practices
in schools who have opportunities to embed their work in the historical framing of
freedom and citizenship that precede them. Philosopher and prison abolitionist Angela
Davis asserts and I’m quoting her -. “Histories never leave us for
some inaccessible place”. “They are a part of us, they inhabit us
and we inhabit them even when we are not aware of this relationship
to history” end of quote. It is imperative that teacher educators
prepare teachers across grade levels and content areas to confront
these histories and take them to task in culturally
relevant and what Django Paris calls culturally sustaining ways in
classrooms and school communities. Restorative is an opportunity
to do this work collectively and to address the larger
wrongdoings in education. Restorative justice cannot be
introduced to teachers and staff as another best practice or program. While acknowledging its indigenous
lineage restorative justice must also be historicized through a racial justice
orientation that confronts the mass incarceration and violence against black
and brown people in the United States. This paradigm shift can support
efforts to reduce racial disparities. However I have to agree with my friend and colleague Rita Alfred of the Restored of
Justice Training Institute in Oakland when she says restorative justice is not
soley reducing racial disparities. The latter will happen
because of the former. It’s about the relationships. Throughout my scholarship I have examined
the link between literacy and citizenship by asking how providing opportunities for
children and youth to access critical literacies can support their
efforts to build literate identities. In other words offering spaces where
educators can cultivate relationships among students around reading, writing,
speaking, performing, and exchanging work. It is through these literate
identities that children and youth view themselves as worthy and
capable. I found this to be especially true for
black and Latino students and under-served schools whose identities were often
defined in monolithic ways by the schools. I would further argue that schools must
exchange the achievement gap discourse for what my colleague Gloria Ladson Billings
more accurately describes as the education debt discourse that explains this notion
of a two tiered idea of citizenship in the United States that often makes
education equality difficult to attain. And I’m quoting Angela Davis
here: “As we all know the term ‘civil rights’ refers to the
rights of citizens, of all citizens, but because the very nature of citizenship in
the United States has always been troubled by the refusal to grant citizenship to
subordinate groups- indigenous people, african slaves, women of all racial and
economic backgrounds. We tend to think of some people as model
citizens, right, as archetypal citizens, those whose civil rights are never placed
in question the quintessential citizens and others as having to wage struggles for
the right to be regarded as citizens. And some undocumented immigrants or quote unquote “suspected Undocumented
immigrants” along with ex felons or quote unquote “suspected ex felons” are beyond
the reach of citizenship altogether. And of course in the criminal and
juvenile justice context, restorative justice begins with the needs
of the person who experience the harm with a straightforward protocol: who has
been hurt, what are their needs, and who’s obligations are these. School context create tensions in this
model because many students who cause harm have experienced harm themselves in or
outside of school. While students who cause harm
still have the responsibility to repair that harm addressing
inequalities across domains. And Prudence Carter and Sean Riordan
offer A beautiful framework for addressing inequality in education
research looking at domains such as Socioeconomic, health domains,
political and socio cultural. And beginning with the notion of who
gets counted as worthy and deserving and thus receives the title of citizen
must be the major thrust of this work. Restorative justice, then,
is a move toward what Robin D.G. Kelley calls “collective freedom”. Robin D. G.
Kelly argues that a collective freedom is quote unquote more expansive and
radical than the freedoms that scholars like myself have argued come
with being critically literate or being able to read write think
interrogating grapple with text. And while I continue to
believe that the ability to be agentive in literate
practices is critical for youth as evidence by my ethnographic work
with student poets in the Bronx, and the power writers class, and student
artists in the girl time program who penned plays about their lives before
during or after incarceration. I also learned that children and
youth need so much more including
high quality education, housing, and the ability to live
the lives that they desire and deserve. Schools can do some of this work and I believe that this work can be done and
achieved in restorative justice peace making
peacekeeping in peace building circles. Elsewhere I argue that circles in
the context of restorative justice constitute a third space
where tensions and contradictions are utilized
to seek individual and collective transformation in a way that
youth view themselves and each other. And I also would like to add in the ways
in which teachers View themselves and students and teachers view their
relationships with each other. With the guide of a facilitator circle
participants are led through a series of activities and questions that
begin to unpack who they are and why they are in that particular
space at that particular time. Using a talking piece as a symbolic
reminder that there is a time to talk and perhaps most importantly a time to listen. Everyone has an opportunity to respond to
the questions posed by the facilitator. Circles can be fluid in that they
are created to fit the needs of the stakeholders thus
providing opportunities for what Kelly refers to as “collective
striving for real democracy”. Restorative justice circles have the
potential to be change labs where people are transformed the way participatory
process that provides opportunities for people to learn more about the lives they
have disregarded or even held in contempt. So how did I start asking these
questions and how did I get here? Beginning in 2006 and Steve referenced
this in his introduction, I embarked on a five year multisited ethnography in
regional youth detention centers and youth detention centers
In the urban southeast. So regional youth detention centers are
these transitional spaces were children, these are jails for children,
I just want to make sure we understand. These are jails for children and they
are transitional spaces where children are held until they have some sort
of court proceeding and they know if they’re going to go to a YDC or youth
detention center to actually serve time. Of course sometimes what happens and we’ve seen this a lot in California
is children get held there. They might go in for something that
happened when they were fourteen and they might be seventeen before
they even have a proper court proceeding to understand what
happened and get to the bottom of this. So as part of the mission of this
program I worked with this ensemble of women who were committed to
come to producing directing and supporting plays written by,
for, and about women. And as part of their mission they began
working with incarcerated girls is these are RYDC’s and YDCs. So they were really tense places
especially the RYDC’s where girls didn’t really know if they were going to go home
if they were going to go serve more time if they were going to go to a group home
if they were going to go into foster care. It was very touch and go. One of the… As I learn more about the girls who
experience incarceration who I refer to a student artists throughout my work,
I learned more about their experiences with schools,
jails, isolation and punishment. I learned about Mia who like so
many other youth woke up and expected to go to school and
return home that afternoon. However after getting in a fight
with a boy who accused her of quote unquote “turning his sister
gay” she was taken into custody by police after being searched by male
security guards at her school. This was happening a lot to queer girls
who were in the detention centers they were being punished for not fitting into heteronormative norms
of what people thought girls should be. So these male security guards are handling
her in a way that’s very rough. They’ve searched her at the school and
they took her to an RYDC in Macon Georgia some ninety minutes
away from her home in Atlanta. And no point was she allowed to call
her mother until she was already detained in Macon. I also met Sanaa whose play “ride or die”
was immensely popular with her peers and an incredible resource for
teaching artists who were unfamiliar with the aspect of fierce loyalty that girls
engaged in as a means of building and maintaining relationships that
were essential to their survival. I learned that in spite of the fact
that Sanaa was a thoughtful writer with a keen interest in acting her only
extracurricular option at her high school Serving working class and working for
African-American students was junior ROTC. No drama club,
no language clubs, no theater. Junior ROTC was it. I also got to know Jada over the course of
three years a loving mother of two boys who could not navigate the social service
institutions to find adequate housing for herself and her sons. Jada challenged the practice of
routinely punishing girls for running away from home and
school by asserting that onlookers must ask what these
girls are running away from. And what are they running toward? And it was Jada, who also taught me that
while the girl time program made her feel and I’m quoting her like she was “under
a whole nother sky” end of quote. That providing student artists with a
place to read, write, think, question and perform no matter how powerful was not
enough to address the inequalities in education, housing, health care,
workforce, and the juvenile and criminal justice systems that
they had to navigate daily. What systems are in place to support
these girls and their peers? And how can communities and
schools respond to their needs and ways that are more relational and
less punitive? What role or what roles can
communities play and what role or what roles can schools play? As a teacher educator, I wondered how
teacher preparation could address issues of mass incarceration
that Impact children and youth. And while girl time practiced
restorative justice principles including accountability, and consensus building,
we did not have the language or the formal training in
restorative justice practices. And as a teacher educator I
found myself encouraging student teachers to build relationships
with their students. However I didn’t have
a formal structure for what this looked like, what it
sounded like, and what it felt like until I began to examine restorative
justice in school and community contexts. My experiences in the field thus far tell
me that it might be possible possible for restorative justice circle processes
that is using the circle structure in deliberate ways to engage those who
were harmed and those who caused harm. About the origins of the conflict and
to seek a solution to support students and staff in disrupting labels that sort and
isolate particular children and youth. And restorative justice circles
participants have an opportunity to create a create boundary crossing
social networks through telling and exchanging personal narratives
that humanize lives. I believe that there are many cities and
regions where one could ask these questions and Northern California is
a very very rich site for this work. Obviously there’s a lot of work
happening in Sacramento City Unified and San Juan Unified. There is a great deal of work being
done throughout the Bay Area in Oakland. And certainly in my research in
the southeast in the northeast on the West Coast has demonstrated that. While Madison Wisconsin,
the site for this particular study, may not resonate as a likely candidate for
addressing inequalities in education, the Annie E Casey Foundation “Race
to Results” report ranked to Wisconsin as the worst state in which
to raise African-American children. Based on an index the foundation
developed that quote “compares how children are progressing
on key milestones across racial and ethnic groups at the national and
state levels” end of quote. By comparison,
wisconsin is one of the more ideal states in which to raise white children
as evidenced by its number ten ranking. For Latino and Asian children Wisconsin
ranked 17th and 37th respectively. A recent publication by the Wisconsin
Council on Children and Families reported that Dane County containing
Madison has 8,804 black children. And in 2011, more than half of these
children, 54%, live in poverty. My partner Tory Wen as one of
the co-authors on this report and his team when they put this report out it
changed the conversation in Dane County that houses Madison. Madison really enjoyed thinking about
itself as being this liberal bastion in the Midwest and it was really
interesting how now everybody is talking about racial disparities and
talking about Race to equity. I also learned from him and some of the
new data that they’ve collected that in Dane County, the primary place for
police contact the first contact that African-American males
have with police is the schools. The second place are the bus
transfer points, the city bus transfer points that get
them to school and get them home. During the 2010-11 Academic year, 21% of the black students in
Dane County were suspended from school. Compared to 2.3% of white students. And in the same academic year
50% of African-American students in the Madison Metropolitan School
District, (I’ll be saying in MMSD when I’m talking about the Madison Metropolitan
School District) did not graduate with a regular or
traditional four year diploma. This is compared to only sixteen
percent of white students. MMSD’s graduation rate for African-American students was
worse than the state average. In 2010 black youth were arrested
six times as often as white youth. And according to the county’s
juvenile court administrator, many of these incidents began in schools. I met the juvenile court administrator
when I first moved to Madison I was participating in the disproportionate
minority contact group, their D.M.C. group. And I asked him I said so
we’re do you primarily get the kids who are in your detention
center from and he said “the schools”. He said over 90% and he said we would probably be empty had we
not received referrals from the schools. In light of these bleak statistics
I find it compelling that MMSD through its new behavior education plan has incorporated sustainable restorative
justice practices in some of its schools. To this end MMSD has formed a unique
partnership with a nonprofit agency that provides technical assistance for implementing restorative
justice in schools. For one year I was a participant observer
in restorative justice practices at J.F.K. (that’s a pseudonym) J.F.K.
high school in Madison. As a participant observer I was able to
participate in circle keeper meetings and trainings for students and administrate
of staff including the principal, assistant principals,
the dean of athletics, the sports coaches social workers
school counselors and psychologists. I was also invited to participate in other
activities that school personnel believe inform the work around
restorative justice. Such as their peer counseling training for
rising juniors and to mentor freshman and
school wide team building initiatives. I was also invited to participate in what
the district refers to as restorative conversations and circles of
support around individual students. J.F.K. was considered one of the more
diverse high schools in the city with 9.4% of students identifying as Asian, 20% of
their students identifying as black, and 17.9 percent of their students identifying
as Latino, and 45.3% of the students identifying as white and
6.6% identifying as two or more races. During the 2014-15 academic year J.F.K.
increased its graduation rate for African-American students from 60% to 70%
which was over the district’s average. And when I asked the administrators about
this work they were not celebrating, they said that we still
have a lot of work to go. So that’s the kind of place that this is. J.F.K. was located in a working
class neighborhood and several staff members grew up in
the neighborhood and were J.F.K. alumni. School personnel considered their school
and community to be a special corner of the city known for its competitive
university and popular sports program. In some ways they acknowledged
an otherworldly ethos in their school community in that they
chose to confront race an inequality overtly as opposed to embracing
the popular narrative that this city did not have the same issues around racism
and classism as larger urban cities. Another distinguishing feature of JFK’s
story of re-imagining school discipline was that the school resource officer,
that’s the police officer that’s housed in the school, the SRO,
Officer Gold introduced the school to restorative justice which he became
familiar with through community policing in a working class working
poor neighborhood in the city. When Officer Gold started to work at JFK, he knew many of the African-American youth
at the school as well as their families. When he witnessed struggles between
these young people and teachers or staff persons, Officer Gold focused on how
to create systems of support to address the problems as opposed to administering
punishment and furthering police action. If we have SROs in our schools,
this is the kind of work that we want them to be doing right we
want them to be supporting us and keeping our children in the school and
engaged. So he brought these community policing
techniques, and restorative justice was one of them, to the school that’s a very
unique story in a lot of the schools. Officer Gold expressed to the
administration that they needed training in this thing called restorative justice. No one had heard about it before he
came and they headed his message. A school social worker and a student
engagement coordinator partnered with Officer Gold to find ways to create
a restorative justice culture. So who are these students circle keepers
that they trained at the school? One of the things I think
is really interesting and that this is all different paper so
I won’t talk about it here but, the student circle keepers were
African-American males, Latino males, African-American females,
and white females. None of the students circle
keepers trained at J.F.K. were white male students. And I think that that’s really interesting
and I can’t really go into that here but, I think we have to think about restorative
justice as being something for all young people to be engaged in. And that if we are going to use it for
these change labs and boundary crossing social networks
that everyone has to be involved and I think a lot of times when we
import things into education like restorative justice we think
it’s just for the brown kids. We think it’s just for a particular group. It’s for everybody it’s not going to work
until we see the value in it working for every single student so that’s something
that I wanted to take note of. In this ethnographic case study of one
high school community grappling with racial disparity some school discipline
policies and practices I wanted to learn how students and key personnel employ
a restorative justice discourse. Or words concepts and ideas that
underscore building and repairing relationships and creating consensus
as well as valuing clear communication. Using talk and restorative conversations
and restorative justice practices and interviews as my unit of analysis, I want
to learn how participation in restorative justice circle keeper training
and/or participation in circles transform how students conceptualize
justice, freedom, and equality in schools. As I continue this inquiry I am looking
for what ways if any change in discourse impacts their observed practices in
addition to their self reported practices. And in the larger study, and we haven’t
analyzed this data yet, we’ve also interviewed key personnel at the school
who have been involved in restorative justice but really most of the restorative
justice work is done by the students. Using discourse analysis tools and
more specifically building tasks, I focus on what James Gee refers to as politics
in his framework for analyzing talk. According to Gee politics refers, and
I’m quoting him here “any situation where the distribution of social goods
is at stake” end of quote. For example in order to analyze students
circle keeper talk around justice and restorative justice,
I transcribed interviews and interrogated these texts with the guiding
question and I’m quoting him again. “What perspective on social goods is
this piece of language communicating?”, i.e, what is being communicated
as to what is taken to be normal, right, good, correct, proper,
appropriate, valuable… The way things are,
the way things ought to be, high status, low status, like me, or
not like me, and so forth. And here I argue that the practice of
both sides being heard in restorative justice circles as well as an ethos of
equality can count as social goods for the students circle keepers in my study. For the purpose of this talk I focus
on the language of students who were trained a circle keepers. And ultimately I argue that Training
students as restorative justice circle keepers not only creates possibilities to
transform language, but also transform lives by creating opportunities for
students to practice justice. And definitions may seem like a mundane
beginning however I wanted to understand how members of the school community
conceptualize justice and restorative justice that could contribute to this
notion of a restorative justice discourse. And throughout my program of research I’ve
been keenly interested in how communities define terms that are used in
the context of their work. And I found that when adult facilitators
and youth participants share a discourse that is central to their objectives, there
is an opportunity for expansive learning. My first request was asking students
circle keepers to define justice and to define restorative justice and
this provided meaningful insight. As student circle keepers
began to define justice, they relied on words like “wrong”, “the
right way”, “getting something solved”,and one student even posited with justice “you
just feel like it’s something in print”. When defining restorative justice student
circle keepers used words like “building”, “making”, “lifting”,
“fixing”, “resolving”, demonstrating that restorative justice was
a process as opposed to something in print in which youth participants were civic
actors charged with responsibility to care for those who were harmed as
well as those who caused harm. Restorative justice had a certain
level of pliability and space for interpretation in these definitions. According to student circle keepers
both sides could engage in a process of making things right. Youth seem to understand that in any
conflict there were multiple perspectives, and I want to start with this quote by
Viola: “restorative justice is making wrongs right, but making it right in a way
that both sides can come to an agreement”. “Because there’s some justice where it’s
just like I feel like this is justice, but the other person may not agree”. “Restorative justice is like
you’re restoring an issue and it’s justice on both sides”. Thus, the title of this talk. And they’ve come to that agreement and
that is what’s going to happen. This last six months I’ve been working
with a team of restorative justice attorneys through my fellowship,
Sujatha Baliga and her colleagues that impact justice. And I gave a presentation to them in
which I shared this quote with them. And they all agreed that this was
the best definition they had ever seen for restorative justice, and they’ve been
doing this work I mean they’ve been doing this work in the criminal and
juvenile justice context. And this notion of justice being on both
sides really stood out for all of us. Students circle keepers at J.F.K.
facilitated various types of circles. However most of the circles
were focused on conflict. There still seemed to be a binary
in the way that student circle keepers viewed this work in that there
was a conflict between two people. And in this view there was
not much consideration for an expansive notion of stakeholders
found in restorative justice theory. The pervasiveness of this perspective
could be due to the fact that the students were really asked to come
in in times of conflict. And I think it’s really interesting
that there were a lot of tensions in the restorative justice practitioner
community that schools are using restorative justice to quote
unquote “triage acute pain”. So they’re asking people to come in after
some of the damage has already been done. So the schools have already been
suspending, they’ve already been isolating they’ve already been expelling, and now
they want to bring in restorative justice. But, some of that damage is
already there from years and years of the practice of isolation. And so they’re really concerned about
restorative justice now being seen as another wrung on the discipline
ladder by students. So students aren’t seeing it
as having the capacity for community building so
getting ahead of the train so to speak. So one student said in restorative
justice we’re building that relationship back together between two people. Just basically putting it back together. And I don’t know how to say this is like. It’s like making the problem go away. So you can just drop it and
be like OK that was silly. You know there’s no reason to be fighting
over something like this we can totally be friends. End of quote. Some circle keepers instinctively discuss
justice and restorative justice together for example, a student Jesse depicted
justice as dealing with the individual who experienced harm or who would what
he said where “it’s not down already”. With Justice functioning as a way to quote
“put them back on their feet” end of quote. Advocates for restorative justice argue
that the current criminal justice system does not put people who experience harm
back on their feet as Jesse suggested. Victims often wait for long periods
of time for court hearings and trials and are not always kept abreast
of how these cases are unfolding. Many of their questions go unanswered. And Jesse understood justice to
be singular, victim centered, while restorative justice
considered the larger community. Jesse elaborated about this idea of
restorative justice striving for more balance among stakeholders and
I’m quoting him again here. “I think there’s kind
of like two justices, like you’re in court and
that’s more like force justice”. “And then there’s restorative justice
where everybody’s doing it voluntarily”. “Because you can just sentence somebody
to suspension to volunteer services and just hope that they get it and
just hope that it clicks in their head”. “But restorative justice means you’re
going to talk about it and talk it out and we’re not going to leave until everybody
understands what went wrong or at least until everybody gets it
off their chest in a safe space”. While Jesse described restorative
justice circles as Safe Spaces, practitioners are starting to trouble
the notion of safety as the field grows. At the fifth National Conference
on community and restorative justice in Fort Lauderdale
Florida, this past June, there were myriad discussions about the role of circle
keepers and the ethics of the practice. Some ask whether or not practitioners
were perpetuating biases and binaries that initially distinguished restorative
justice from other ways of engaging harm. I think that’s a really
important question to take up. Another student circle keeper
compared her definitions of justice prior her restorative justice training and
after her training. And Kerry said “before I kind of thought
justice was ‘you did something wrong and something wrong should be done to you’. “If you do something wrong,
you go to jail”. “I was really stuck on that”. “You do something wrong
that’s what you should do”. “You should go to jail and
you should have time to think about it”. And that’s the reason you go to jail. But then I came here and I started
getting into restorative justice and I started thinking there’s a lot
of things that’s behind it. Not all people deserve to go to jail. Some people do need counseling but for
certain crimes they always get sent there or a lot of times they get sent there and
sometimes a little bit of counseling and connecting could probably fix whatever
was damaged to make them do the crime. But since we don’t have enough
of that in the justice system it will continue to be jail all the time. So that’s kind of changing she said. Kerry’s view of justice
was straightforward and simple you do something
wrong you go to jail. The belief that undergird this
popular view of crime and punishment are embedded of notions
of personal responsibility. That is a discourse that permeates
our culture as Americans. And Kerry like most Americans was
quote unquote “stuck on that”. However the paradigm shift of thinking
restoratively requires considering context or as Kerry offered to
learn what is behind the actions. Through circle keeping, which by no means
I want to be clear is formal counseling that’s not what circle keeping is, there
was time for what she considered to be a little bit of counseling and
most importantly connecting. Kerry learned that the actions of those
who caused harm could be addressed and in some cases disrupted. The notion of interconnectedness
is currently being examined in restorative justice theory. Civil rights attorney and executive
director of restorative justice for Oakland youth, RJOY’s Fania Davis, argues
that when the “web of interrelatedness” is disrupted it is possible to restore this
through restorative justice practices. And Fania Davis argues that the United
States should engage in a Truth and Reconciliation process
using restorative justice to address the systematic
violence against black people. Restorative justice in this context
would seek to and I’m quoting her here, “Repair the harm caused
to the whole of the web restoring relationships to move into
a brighter future”, end of quote. Carrie approach the restorative justice
process as if it were a puzzle. I feel as if your problem
is being restored it’s going from being
a problem to just a situation. It’s not as big,
it’s not holding you down. It’s no longer a chip on your shoulder. It’s just something in front of you, a jigsaw puzzle that you
just have to figure out. And it helps the situation to know
that it’s not as bad as it really is. It’s not as bad as you may think. And it helps to resolve it. And that’s kind of
the restorative part of it. And I think that’s so important because
what these students are understanding that sometimes the adult in the building to
understand is we want to give young people the opportunity to get up
from under these labels. And clearly there’s nothing to really
get them up from under these labels once they’re, you know,
typecast as low achieving, or disruptions to the school or
problem makers. Once they’re under that label it’s
really hard to get from under that. And so what the restorative justice
circle processes offer is a way for them to get from under those
labels that hold them down. And you’re not just this
one thing that you did. You’re so much more than
this one thing that you did. And until we sort of get to that, the kids
are going to be continuously punished for the one thing that they did. Similarly Kerry viewed justice
in the context of restorative justice as a process that
involves problem solving. And she explained “I feel like justice
is just getting something solved”. “For example, if a teacher and a student
aren’t getting along and the grade isn’t going as well as the student wants
it to and they’re having trouble and they can’t communicate with the teacher
the student will come in a circle and they will talk about it instead
of not talking about it”. And if the student is
getting a referral or something like that then they can talk
about it and improve the conflict. Kerry underscore that everybody or everyone who was involved in the incident
or disruption is also responsible for co-creating an action plan
to make things right. Here Kerry began to unpack one of the
themes I saw in conversations with student circle keepers. Students circle keepers considered
restorative justice to being the only space in schools where students
could address their teachers without fear of retaliation. The only space. Another student circle keeper
described the circle as offering options to those involved. Basically justice is like everything
is going right like the right way, what’s supposed to be. You feel like it’s in print like
it’s good like everything’s good and restorative justice is letting the
students know all their options and ways to solve situations and basically like
being honest and truthful in the circles. And I would describe it as something
that helps students see another student’s perspectives. One of the challenges in
building a restorative justice discourse in school
is that restorative justice practices occupy spaces that
continue to use punitive discourses. Having other systems in place of course
makes community members feel safer. My colleague and scholar at the prison
abolitionists Erica Meiners in 2007 began to address this in her groundbreaking book
“Right to be Hostile: Schools, Prisons, and the making of Public Enemies”. When asked about her views as a prison
abolitionist Meiners was often confronted with the question “But what are we
going to do with really bad people?”. If suspending children is a tool it
will be used, if expelling children is an option it will be exercised,
if calling armed police to remove a child from a classroom is part of a school’s
culture, then it will be practiced. If jails for children and
adults exist, they will be filled. This begs the question how can
there truly be a paradigm shift if these mechanisms are in place. My five year old son, Obasi,
he came up to me just a few weeks ago and he said “mommy are there still
prisons?” and I laughed and though my gosh maybe I’m
talking about my work too much. [LAUGH]. And I said yes,
there are still prisons and he said he asked me “aren’t
they old fashioned?”. You know he just sees them as something
that like a land far far away like where we put people away and I said you
know that’s how a lot of people feel like they’re a little bit old fashioned. And of course restorative case conferences
are replacing- there’s a lot of court diversion programs that are happening. I was able to see the power and
potential in that. Community Works West is an organization
that works with the Alameda County DA to do court diversion for youth. Countries such as New Zealand, New Zealand
has rid themselves of detention centers, they use a restorative justice
case conference process with their young people. Northern Ireland which was the site for the European forum for restorative
justice last year, our conference, opened up with the minister of
justice from Northern Ireland and now every single youth who was involved
in causing harm has to have a restorative case conference proceeding as opposed
to just a traditional court proceeding. So people are doing this work
they are changing the paradigm by shifting the system and not making these
other things a possibility or an option. At JFK youth court, I know some
of you have heard of youth court, Youth Court seem to function as insurance
for restorative justice circle processes. It was viewed as more systematic,
structured and having clear and concise steps to follow
up with stakeholders. Prior to my research in communities
practicing restorative justice, I have to admit I was skeptical of Youth Court
co-existing with restorative justice. I wondered how a community in the early
phases of implementing restorative justice could be committed
to this change in mindset if there was still the language of
Youth Court in the same building. So for example, youth court you know
still uses judge and sentence and that sort of thing. I wanted to know which students were asked
to judge, how they were selected, and how that hierarchy and power dynamic
among students impacted their perceptions of each other and shaped
their relationship outside of the court. Youth Court maintained the retributive
discourse using words like jury and sentencing. But in listening and learning from student
circle keepers, I discovered that they did not find the relationship
between restorative justice and youth court to be as
dichotomous as I thought. So, I stand corrected on that. Several circle keepers participated in
both restorative justice and Youth Court. And they used the former to inform
their decisions in the latter to make them more restorative. Student circle keepers valued the their
restorative justice training in the context of youth court while
acknowledging that there was a difference. One student shared “I believe that
youth court kind of falls in the line of a regular court”. It’s not necessarily a punishment, but
it’s basically a punishment I believe. But it’s not maximum punishment. It’s not the most you can punish. So I would say justice is basically just
getting back what you put out there. I believe the biggest part of
restorative justice is to restore. Because instead of getting back what
you deserve in the maybe negative way if you put negativity out there
restoring kind of bills that emptiness of whatever you pulled out. So kind of restoring that punishment
instead of doing a punishment. Doing a more intimate circle and realizing
why you’ve done what you’ve done. Another student Jesse said “The way I kind
of look at restorative justice is that it does a lot of the smaller stuff and Youth
Court is more like the bigger stuff”. A lot of youth court cases come
from different places fights and also everybody has
the opportunity to explore those, rather, not everybody has the opportunity
to explore those justice circles. And the only way you’ve
benefit from the circle is if the person wants
to be in the circle. So it’s all participatory and volunteer,
you have to say that you want to be and participate in this process. And then youth court is like our next
best thing to try to help them out. And Youth Court is not the greatest but, we will sentence them to some
kind of community service. I’ve even done it were kids just
aren’t connected to the school so we sentence them to try new clubs or
something like that. So it’s just kind of we get to ask them questions kind of
that’s really how we go about it. We ask them questions about how their life
is in the overall sense of how a person is. And then it helps. Also I learned that equality really
matters to the young people, the students circle keepers,
who are doing this work. One of the questions that I asked
the focus group was who was restorative justice for and who is or
what is actually being restored. I explain that I didn’t have
the answer to these questions but was learning from their
experiences circle keepers. The first student who responded to
the set of questions set the tone by naming that there was a quote unquote,
“power dynamic between students and teachers that often makes them
feel like they are less”. Students in the focus group argued that in
restorative justice circles teachers and students are on quote
unquote “equal ground”. One student said I kind of
feel like because restorative justice is a program that
mends broken relationships, it’s like when you come into restorative
justice everybody has an equal ground. The teacher is not looked
at as the teacher and the student is not looked
at as the student. Everybody needs to be respected and
everybody needs to have that equality. So the teacher can see how he or she feels
without the student being too offended. The student can say how they
feel without having the idea or threat and
feeling that they might be suspended. The circle is the space where
everybody is respected and everybody can share exactly how they feel. Students seem to have accepted the fact
that they cannot suspect or expect to be or feel respected if fixed identities
of teacher and student remained in place. Those real and imagined titles impeded
relationships and opportunities for clear communication, goal setting,
and establishing shared values. If these are not in place there will be
many students who will not learn in these contexts. In that regard, the notion of equality becomes central in
many student circle keepers responses. Other students circle keepers underscore that this notion
of equality as they attempted to capture the role of restorative
justice in their school community. And one student said that’s really
what restorative justice is to me. It’s a community and
it helps bring us together. It’s where everybody’s equal and sometimes
we don’t feel like everybody’s equal here. Especially while we’re in the circle
we always say that everybody’s equal because it’s really
hard if you’re in conflict or you’re having trouble with a teacher and
you always feel that the teacher is going to win the argument
because they’re “upper”. I love this word “upper”. “Upper”.
Their upper in standards because they’re the teacher. I mean they’re older, they know better,
but we always tell them in circle that everybody’s equal and
it really helps most kids talk it out and figure stuff out because they don’t always
feel like they can accomplish anything because the teacher
will always be “above”. While students offered a compelling
vision for equality that required both students and teachers to redefine
their roles and learning communities, I wondered if the adults in the building
shared this same vision of equality and democratic engagement. Eight weeks into the 2014-15 academic
year, the district that houses J.F.K. implemented this new discipline program
emphasizing restorative justice practice. The plan was described
by classroom teachers, this is just eight weeks in,
as quote unquote “not working”. One middle school teacher asserted “the
theory doesn’t match the reality”. Seven months later a teacher granted an
interview with a local paper in which she declared the new discipline
policy problems quote, “forced her to resign” end of quote. The main issue according to this teacher
was before the new discipline plan she could call support staff to
“intervene” when there was a quote unquote “out of control” student. And then she said we call now and
no one comes. And the teacher said this before declaring
this is basically “Bad Parenting 101”. It was evident to students circle
keepers that restorative justice circles offered a space in which students and teachers in conflict could talk to
each other without looming punishment. But because J.F.K. actually had very few
teachers who completed restorative justice training it was unclear during my time
there as a participant observer if the teachers really shared the same view. There was just an article in
the Los Angeles Times talking about the difficulties and the tensions in
getting restorative justice on its feet. And one of the problems is that teachers
again are not being given the tools. They are not actually being properly
trained and to do proper training a lot of the practitioners who I work
with, they won’t even have a conversation with people who will not give them
three to four days of training. You need training. They need nourishment and they need
to be compensated for their time. Which is one of the reasons why I really
would like to see us do this work in teacher preparation it’s a time where we
have our pre-service teachers with us. It’s before they get into I forgot one of
our colleagues said the noise of school, I think Gloria said that today,
the noise of when your teacher and there’s all this other
stuff coming at you. So, how can we do this work before
our teachers are in the noise of their first year of teaching. This is really really hard work. Is principal Adolphson here
from San Juan- is she here? Principal Adolohson and her team from
San Juan Unified School District are implementing restorative justice and the doing some work in
Sacramento City Unified School District. But I what think is really important about
what they’re doing at San Juan high school is they’re also implementing
an ethnic studies course. And I think there’s just so much focus
on dismantling systems of oppression and using restorative justice to reduce racial
disparities in the discipline gap and the education gap. But we also have to build institutions
that seek to liberate our children and teachers from racist and
classist pedagogies and practices. So we can’t just keep dismantling we’ve
got to build something in it’s place. Where do we go to? Were taking these things away, but
what are we putting in its place? What tools are we giving our teachers and
our staff persons and everybody who is working
with the children. And I do want to say that I consider
everybody in the building with the children to be their teachers. That is the model from
independent black institutions. Everyone who has an exchange with
the children in the building who was in the cafeteria, who is
cleaning up the building, these are all the teachers they are all imparting
some kind of value on the children. I want to challenge us to think about
living outside the circle as well. How can we use this paradigm shift and it’s processes to make the wrong
doings of the education debt right. And how can we, how can teachers and
teacher educators become what my friends and colleague calls “paradigm
shift communicators”. As a researcher,
there are moments when I find myself returning to other spaces I have
occupied as a participant observer. And in best case as a worthy witness in
communities who have generously shared their spaces with me. Working with students circle keepers
at JFK was one of these moments. Young people are actively searching for the right words, their own words
to describe their experiences, their perspectives their world view and
themselves. Young people are searching for these
words in spite of being at the whim of an infrastructure that wields the power to
assert definitions and descriptions that often render these children as unworthy
and undeserving of citizenship. When I conducted my dissertation
research nearly fifteen years ago, in black owned and operated bookstores
in poetry venues I interviewed over one hundred poets writers and audience
members who frequented these spaces. An unexpected finding was how many
African-American parents I met who use these spaces as both supplementary and
alternative knowledge spaces for their children. One of the parents quotes
will always stay with me. Mrs Shabazz, who explains the process
of trying to find the right word for her children who
are African-American who she did not believe would receive
the right words school. And I’m quoting her here:
That’s what we are Myesha. Words make people. Those are the images that create us. So if you’ve got the word lazy or you got the word beautiful, that helps
you form your identity in yourself. What else can we do but
pay homage to the word and the right word because the wrong
word creates false people. So we’re looking for the right word for our children
because we’ve had the wrong word. Restorative justice circle
processes are possible sites for change, changing language and
thus transforming lives. My colleagues in psychology have found
that children with a strong sense of family narrative and often experience
affirming social interaction and acquire skillful language development. Ultimately I would like to create
a model for restorative justice circle processes for teacher education
whereby participants, both students and teachers, have an opportunity to retell
their narratives choosing words and language that challenges monolithic
narratives that potentially limit how others view them and
how they view themselves. The opportunity for
what we’re calling restoring or retelling one’s story seems
particularly urgent at this critical intersection of America’s
relationships with its citizens. In these circles or change labs I think we
may be able to begin the difficult work of addressing race, class, gender,
religion, privilege, and inequality. Thank you. Thanks. [APPLAUSE]. You didn’t know you had two new
students in the school of ed. [LAUGH] Yeah they need some honoraries. They’ve been listening to mommy’s work for
too long. We have about fifteen minutes for
questions. Can I step from behind- I can’t.>>What role do learning disabilities play in restorative justice? Yes absolutely I think that that’s a really critical question right now. So the question was “What is the role of
a sort of justice in supporting students with learning disabilities”. I mean what we know now is that students
with disabilities are being suspended at astounding rates,
I mean it should be embarrassing actually. I feel really embarrassed by it. And so one of the things that restorative
justice is seeking to do to disrupt that cycle of constantly punishing students
who have learning disabilities. I think that there’s this chasm right that
there’s the students who are really for this and then there’s the administrators. The administrators really want to
get those numbers down, right? They are very invested in trying to
make sure that these disparities are cut at their schools. But then the teachers are caught somewhere
in the middle right because they’re not really getting the tools that they
need to really do the work in really thoughtful powerful ways. I mean if you talk to a restorative
justice practitioner who will say we need three full days, and I mean days
where you’re fully present in a room. My first restorative justice training
we were in a room, we were in circle, for three days. We ate in there. We talked to each other. You’re not supposed to be on your
cell phone there’s no laptops out. You are there you’re fully present
that’s the kind of work that it takes. And so one of the things that I thought
was really interesting when when I hosted a restorative justice training at U.W.
Madison is we had special education teachers who were there who found
the restorative justice circle process a really powerful way to engage the young
people that they were working with. And they really really wanted their
colleagues to have this experience too because they were often the ones who
people would come get and say like So and so was doing something and
I need your help. So people weren’t taking
the time to find out what things that they could
do with these students. They were relying on the special
education staff members or people who are designated special
education but I think what restorative justice does is sort of democratize,
if you will, the relationship. So it’s not just the people
who are in special ed or the social workers at the school or
the psychologist in the school who are expected to do the heavy lifting
of building their relationships but it actually offers a tool that everyone
can be engaged in where we don’t have to seek out individual or specific people. But everyone is doing it in
an ideal situation of course. Thank you for that question. Yes.>>To what degree do we involve
parents in the restorative process? Yeah, that’s great! That question actually came
up with faculty today right. So. Typically in a restorative
justice circle… There are circles of support
that might be just for one particular student who
is having some struggles. They are not necessarily
about conflict all the time. In circles of support,
the student who was the the focal point of the circle gets to choose
advocates to come in for them and in a lot of times
the advocates are parents or guardians. For those of you have never seen what a
circle looks like, restorative justice for Oakland (RJOY) has some beautiful
videos that are up on their website. That’s RJOY- Restorative Justice for
Oakland Youth. And I was just referencing this to my
colleagues in the school of Ed here today. There was a beautiful video of a reentry
circle where you have a young man who’s coming back to school after having
some experiences with being suspended. His mother is in the circle his stepfather
is in the circle there are teachers from all the content areas,
you know all the periods of the day. The principal is there. And one of the questions is not
only what would the student need to be able to be successful, but
what kind of support did his mother need? What kind of things did she
need to be successful with him? And it was really powerful. So, parents are definitely a huge part
of this they’re asked to come in if it seems relevant or
some sort of advocate or ally of not only the person who was
harm but the person who caused harm. Everyone is supposed to have
an advocate or ally in the circle. Thanks for asking that question. Yes.>>You talk a little bit about how we
often think that restorative justice is for the brown kids, and how that’s not
always true that it’s also true for children with learning disabilities… Yeah, it’s for everybody! How would we- as a credential
candidate I know that I might not be in oakland
where the need is there. I may be in a predominantly white,
middle class, school. How do I bring restorative
justice to that school? How do I make that case to
a parent who might say like, “my girl’s white and Jewish,
I don’t think she needs it”. How do I make them see that,
yeah, she needs it. [LAUGH]. So, it’s interesting we
came across these questions when I was doing the work with
the power writers in the Bronx. So I was working with a team
of incredible teachers. One primary teacher, Joseph Oubilace who
worked in University Heights High School in the Bronx that primarily served
Puerto Rican, Dominican, West Indian, and African-American youth. What was really interesting is
there was an opportunity to do the work at a private prep
school that’s also in the Bronx. And at first people thought will do
they really need the power writing model which is a model where students
are exchanging original writing giving each other feedback in
a process called “Read and Feed”. What was incredible was this amazing
exchange that happened with the students at this public sort of under-resourced
school and this private prep school. How important it was that the students
at the private prep school who had other kinds of privileges
they are experiencing the same angst. I mean it’s like youth angst, right? It’s like the stuff that everybody goes
through that’s universal that really transcends any sort of physical
boundaries that we think we’re seeing. And so a lot of the work that
they did in power writing they ended up taking to schools
out in Long Island and schools that served lots of
different kinds of young people. And I think the same thing can be said for
restorative justice work what’s really interesting is that at JFK, now
you see people using circles of support. There was a suicide
attempt with a student. You know, this was a white student and the group of friends were just completely
traumatized that this happened. And so what the parents saw was that
their children really needed to be in these circles of support because once
they experience that with their friend it was really impacting their
experiences at the school. It was impacting their
emotions at the school and they needed a little place to
sort of think through this. But I really caution against
this because I think it’s so important that all of
these programs are… That any kind of thing
that we’re bringing in or that we’re thinking about it’s
not just for the colored kids. It’s not just for the kids over there and one of the things that I think is really
important in thinking about restorative justice, and I talked about this earlier
today, Ta-Nehisi Coates has this beautiful article in The Atlantic called “The Black
Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration. Where he traces black criminality and talks about this country’s
efforts to really criminalize black people beginning with enslavement
and continuing with Jim Crow. And then he really uses the the Moynihan
Report in 1965 that really talks about the black family or “the Negro family” at
the time in really pathologizing ways. And he says that we
are all really impacted by the criminality of black people. We don’t really understand
how much we are. Including black people. And that for blacks who have not been
entangled in the justice system at all they’re still victims of this
notion of black criminalization. And so I think it’s really important
that everybody gets in the circle so that we can unpack what
these narratives are. I started to talk about this at the end of
the talk one of the things that I’d really like to do in this really comes from being
inspired actually in Northern Ireland. There are people who restorative justice
work who have a narrative approach. The University of Ulster there
actually offers like graduate programs in restorative justice and they have
a narrative approach where they’re really interested in giving young people
an opportunity to tell these stories. And when I think about some of the work
that’s being done in the US in psychology around family narratives, most of that work has been done
with middle class white children. A lot of that work hasn’t been
done in sort of mixed groups with mixed age groups and ethnicity,
and gender orientation. So I’d like for us to think about some of
those models about what it would mean to create a family narrative or retell
the narrative from your perspective and reclaim that and use the right words that
you want to use describe who you are. And one of the other things
that I want to share is that I learned from the student
circle keepers at JFK or I relearned I should say how really
important the hallways are in high school. Right the hallways are this huge
place where you know who’s who. You know who’s popular who’s coming
down the hallway high-fiveing everybody. You know who’s kind of trying to squeak
by quietly and not get pushed and shoved. You see who speaks who has
people to speak to who doesn’t. And one of the things that the student
circle keepers said about being in the circle is now suddenly they have
this reference point for people who they thought they would never have anything
to say anything to for any reason. They already judge these people. And they made assumptions about them. But in the circle they found
out this person is really OK. They have their story, maybe we have some
things in common and maybe we don’t. But they are a human being and so then
all of a sided if they see this person in the hallway, this social institution in
itself, and they have a relationship. They can say hello they can
connect they can build. They say how are you they check on them. “Are things going OK”? In a way that they had not
even dared to do before. Yes.>>Do you have to modify
restorative justice processes in some way to
make them in lower grades? I can’t speak to the effectiveness,
but what I can speak to is that there are people being trained
at the elementary school level. So in West Contra Costa County
School District Catholic Charities is partnering with
West Contra Costa County schools. And one of the trains that I went to
during part of my fellowship was actually at an elementary school in
Richmond where they were training elementary school teachers
kindergarten through fifth grade in restorative justice trauma
informed practices. I was telling my colleagues earlier I
had never had trauma training in all my teacher preparation. I had awesome, I believe,
awesome teacher preparation. I didn’t really know anything
about the trauma literature. So they’re bringing the restorative
justice work and trauma informed work together and yeah so they’re doing
trainings as early as elementary school. Yeah.>>I come from a human
development perspective, but has there been any work
looking at weather or not restorative justice sort of changes
the stages of moral development. That’s really interesting there’s a lot
of talk about emotional intelligence and how important that is for children. As a matter of fact, I think the New
York Times just did this article about emotional intelligence and elementary Ed. Well I think that, I mean this is a whole
body of work that is untapped and I think that we have a lot of really
powerful work in the legal field around restorative justice. And we’re just now starting to see work
in restorative justice in education. But a lot of the restorative justice and
education work are sort of case studies about different schools and
kind of a little more how-to ish. Like, if you want to do this at your
school these are kind of the steps. And I think that’s really important,
but not as much work thinking about the theory,
taking in theories of human development, I think that these are some of
the really rich places where if we have students who want to
start you know having a line of inquiry in this area this
is really a fertile space.>>My question is that like with
youths who have been experiencing or who have experienced years
of punitive practice and therefore disengagement isolation
from the institution, I can’t imagine that they would be too eager to
participate in something like this. So in your time with girl time or with
your time at JFK, what has sort of been done with students like that who
are really hesitant to participate but you think could benefit from something
like restorative justice processes. That’s a great question. You cannot imagine how many
students are actually a little bit relieved that someone
is going to listen to them. It’s incredible. So a lot of the students who
are causing the most noise and the most commotion are actually
really interested in this process. And it’s not because they just
don’t want to get suspended again, because guess what getting
suspended is easy people. I keep hearing people say this
thing that I do not agree with. I keep hearing people say that restorative
justice doesn’t hold students accountable. But suspending kids and having them home on social media all
day is not holding them accountable. It’s just not!. [LAUGH]. Who doesn’t want to be like this all day? You know we get into our little worlds and
are on Instagram and Facebook you know whatever. So one of the things that I think
is really powerful is how many of the students really want to space to talk. No one’s really ever asked
them why they do what they do. They’ve never asked themselves
they’ve never had the opportunity. When you’re constantly isolated, right? If you’re constantly removed. Removal in isolation do not force
you to talk about what’s going on. That’s why you have repeat behaviors. That’s why you have people
continuing to do the same thing. And not only that but something that
the student circle keepers understood that you know not even all the adults in
the building understood was that they’re like you know I see my peers and
they know the teacher’s triggers. And they want to leave. They want to get kicked out. And they know exactly what to do and we’re all like it’s two ten so-and-so
is getting ready to do such, like they already know what’s going
to happen before the teacher knows. They know it they see it
played out every single day. And so they know this. We need to get on board and try to figure
it out but the students know this. And so I think it’s really interesting if
we think about if you’ve had a history of removal and isolation that has
impacted your ability to read, your ability to do the math, do the science,
and you know that if you are kicked out you do not have to confront the fact
that you are really really behind. Then you’re just going to
keep producing activities and behaviors that get you sent out. Then you don’t have to confront that very
very hard work that you may be really really behind. That’s hard. So during my time at JFK I’ve actually
been with student circle keepers who talk to students and ask them if they
want to be in the in the process. And even some of the most reluctant
students they’ll give it a try. And if the right person at the school
asks them to, that’s why you need so many people in the building who
are trained- the right kinds of allies, there’s always that one person who can say
“Hey, why don’t you give this a try?”. A lot of times at the school it’s
a student ordinator or a social worker. And then they’ll try it,
and then they’re there. So once they get them, they can’t go back. [LAUGH]. Yeah.>>Just one little thing, we do have a number of folks in the room
who are learning to be teachers right now. It sounds as if there are a number of
principles from Restorative justice education that might be valuable
even in the sort of short term. Are there a few- maybe what I mean
some folks you might think well this would be great if I have those three
days of training, but I don’t. What can I use from this. From what might be a couple of principles
in that moment when I’m in the classroom and something like that- ” it’s 2:10, no,
here comes one of those scenes again. I mean do you have a couple of moments
like that about what they might need. I have some thoughts about it but
I do want to say that I really do side with the practitioners
when I say that you need proper training. I really do believe that. After having experienced the training
myself, having been in multiple trainings. I know that you need the training. You actually need to experience it and
anyone in the building advocating for it needs to have the training. But one of the thing, one of the tools
that I’ve seen is worked really well for teachers who have had some success is that
they start circling their students up right away in the school year so that when
things happen along the way they’re able to come back to this very deliberate
system to deal with conflict. So there are a lot of teachers who teach
some of their materials in the circle. They’ll either take an article or an op ed
or something that is related to a theme in the books that they’re reading and
they’ll just do that work in the circle so that the students are actually
comfortable in the structure. And I learned this from some teachers
who when they had a conflict and they tried to get students in the circle
but they didn’t have a culture for it in the classroom it was awkward. It was awkward for the teacher and
it was awkward for the students. They’re like “what are you doing?”. You know it’s like it’s February and you’re asking us to sit in a circle
we haven’t been doing this all year. But when they started doing it early on
maybe before there were larger issues, then and when they needed it as a tool
later they could actually do it because the students had a framework for
it as opposed to “Why are you doing this, you haven’t been doing this?”. I’m Harold Levine, dean of the school of education and I want to thank Dr. Winn for giving us more than a day of her valuable time. There are so many things and liberty and popularization that don’t
stop with students. We would be interested in learning
more about restorative justice at this university just as I’m sure is
your community in Wisconsin. I was really struck by how started your talk really about the Pledge of Allegiance and liberty and justice for all. And also one of the participants
in one of your studies you quoted we always think about I think
as “People making words”. I think it was she that said
that words make people. And I think that’s right, and
it forces us, to use your word, to interrogate these things. And with liberty and justice for
all I think we do need to interrogate and maybe we need to redefine it as with
liberty and restorative justice for all. We deeply appreciate you coming and
it’s been marvelous. I know all of us have appreciated it. And one last time. [APPLAUSE]. Thank you.

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