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Transforming Education: Restorative Practices at Eagle Rock School

Transforming Education: Restorative Practices at Eagle Rock School

Nestled outside of Denver in Estes Park, Colorado, Eagle Rock School employs an innovative approach in addressing conflicts and fostering accountability through Restorative Practices. At the helm of this transformation is Bibi Gnagno, the Dean of Restorative Practices, who has passionately devoted herself to imagining new ways the educational landscape can grow. In this first of a series of blog posts, we explore the dynamic world of Restorative Practices at Eagle Rock School, delving into what it entails and its profound impact on fostering accountability and shaping conflict resolution.

Defining Restorative Practices

Restorative Practices serve as a powerful lens through which Eagle Rock School manages conflict and heals harm. It goes beyond the mere resolution of disputes; it is about building a profound sense of community among students and staff by fostering communication, empathy, and shared values. Restorative Practices encompass a depth of emotion, rooted in the present, and enacted with the utmost intentionality. Restorative Practices are at the intersection of DEI work.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GOA) found that Black students, boys, and students with disabilities were disproportionately disciplined (e.g., suspensions and expulsions) in K-12 public schools, according to their analysis of Department of Education (Education) national civil rights data, perpetuating a cycle of injustice and inequity. Eagle Rock School recognizes the need to interrupt this system, and we are doing so by implementing Restorative Practices.

Restorative Practices, however, aren't a new Western construct. They have roots in Indigenous communities around the world, and involve reflection, dialogue, and opportunities to feel heard and respected. This practice challenges the traditional model of conflict resolution where individuals are solely responsible for their actions. At Eagle Rock, it is a community-driven process. While this might pose a challenge for students accustomed to dealing with issues individually and facing punitive measures, they are offered the chance to learn from their mistakes and heal within a supportive community.

The Importance of Accountability

A crucial aspect of Restorative Practices is accountability. Students often perceive accountability as synonymous with punishment. However, at Eagle Rock School, it signifies a sense of responsibility with support. This support is essential in ensuring that the lessons learned through the restorative process are meaningful and lasting. Sometimes, students may be unwilling to engage with restorative practices because it can be more challenging than receiving a simple punishment. But the results of this approach, in terms of personal growth and community-building, are significantly more profound and impactful, especially long term.

Real-Life Examples and Implementation

Eagle Rock School's commitment to restorative practices is evident in its diligent implementation. We draw inspiration from organizations like the Oakland Unified School District and Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, which have made significant strides in implementing restorative justice practices over the past decade. 

 

 

Eagle Rock School employs a Restorative Practices Paradigm Shift, a framework that ranges in formality. It includes elements such as motivational interviewing, proactive and responsive circles, and conferencing. The approach emphasizes gathering information and understanding emotions, rather than trying to enforce one's will. It encourages students and staff to engage in circle work that focuses on equity, values setting, and community norms. For more serious incidents, responsive circles and conferencing come into play, involving background research and thorough conversation with the party who caused the harm and harmed parties.

A key takeaway from our approach to Restorative Practices is the importance of language. The emphasis is placed on understanding who is harmed and how the community can come together to facilitate healing. This change in language and perspective can be incredibly powerful in transforming how individuals interact and address conflicts.

Under the Restorative Practices guidance of Bibi Gnagno, Eagle Rock School, is proactively contributing to a more equitable system that aims to reshape the educational landscape. By embracing this approach, we are promoting accountability, addressing conflicts, and fostering a sense of community that transcends conventional disciplinary systems. As restorative practices continue to gain momentum, Eagle Rock School is contributing to an educational revolution that is helping students not only learn from their mistakes but also heal and grow within a supportive and compassionate environment.