Have you ever discussed Restorative Justice? Have you tried to implement Restorative Justice? Do you know the meaning of Restorative Justice? I should have started by defining it first as to my surprise not many know anything about it and yet we wish for a peaceful world!
Restorative justice is the process of restoring harmony and peace by discussing conflict resolution to repair the harm and find a positive way forward. To coexist peacefully despite differences. It is more directed towards the injustice than the perpetrator of injustice. For example, in the case of microaggressions, restorative justice would be to talk about the root cause of the aggressive behaviour and eliminate it, rather than punish the aggressor.
This practice prevents conflicts and repairs the harm it can cause or has caused. So what does it look like in a school context? Here is an infographic that I created to explain this concept in the context of international schools.
International schools are diverse communities. So, diversity of gender, race, culture, language, physical and neural abilities is a common phenomenon. Due to differences, there are situations when microaggressions come to the surface. Let me explain the infographic with the help of an example. The incident: a student making fun of the other student’s accent. This is a racial/cultural microaggression. How should the teachers address this? In most of our schools, we adopt a more ‘consequence-based approach’ and especially in an international school as we strive to be internationally minded. Hence the consequence-based practice follows a tried and tested approach:
- Investigation and documentation of the incident when a complaint is launched.
- Meeting with the teacher and the students in concern, both aggressor and aggressee.
- Aggressor named and shamed.
- Aggressor required to apologize.
- Behavior note, parents notified.
- Possible suspension of the aggressor and/or meeting with parents of the aggressor
Aggressor becomes more hostile or antagonistic towards the discrimination issue, they do not realise why it is wrong to make fun of accents. They never forgive their friends who told on them and end up being a hater of people with an accent. With time and age, the hate may go away but the bias remains with the aggressor and grows from implicit to explicit bias against people with accents. Similarly, the aggressee cannot find peace as it always stays with them as a feeling of hurt and shame, they try to avoid similar situations by either changing their ways or resorting to secluding themselves.
On the other hand, restorative justice-based practice follows a process to discourage harm and hatred. Therefore, the same incident mentioned above will be dealt with like this:
- Listening to both sides of the conversation with a non-judgmental approach.
- Calling a meeting with the aggressor, aggressee, all their friends and classmates to discuss the harm caused by the aggression or conflict.
- Aggression named and shamed, not the aggressor.
- Students asked to discuss in small, focused groups why it is not ok to make fun of accents. Or discuss the root cause of the problem.
- Students to self-reflect on how they can make a positive change, students can do an introspection in any way they want, by writing about it, making a video, doing an interview, talking with parents, writing a post or even meditating for understanding the idea of restoring justice.
- Normalisation of the situation.
Aggressor understands that it is not ok to make fun of someone’s identity. They understand that it reflects poorly on them as such behaviour means a deep-rooted bias or hatred. They try to be better, may even have a conversation with the aggressee to apologise as they feel it is the right thing to do. All students develop a common understanding of the issue and know the difference between right and wrong. They aggressee heals as they don’t feel victimized, harmed, or shamed. This way, even though the impact is not immediately visible, the harm caused is addressed to prevent the harmful effect.
Restorative justice is the way forward for a peaceful world. The consequence-based approach only leads to changing micro-aggressions, hate and implicit bias into macro-aggression, hatred and explicit bias. This further leads to conflicts and crimes like discrimination and radicalizing, which further leads to macro issues of prejudice, genocide, war and worst dehumanizing.
If we teach and preach restorative justice the future generation will know better than destruction, war and annihilation. They will learn peace, harmony and coexistence, virtues taught to us by leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. This is possible, we saw it recently when a soldier confessed that he does not want war when he was captured and offered food and shelter rather than treated as an enemy. This is the story of a Russian soldier captured by Ukraine who was offered tea and sandwiches and allowed to call his mother. This video went viral have a look: https://nypost.com/2022/03/02/video-shows-crying-russian-soldier-drinking-tea-calling-mom/ The power of truly being OneWorld by restoring it not by destroying it.
Restorative justice has to be taught if we want to end war.