The Youth Organizing Institute, Education Justice Alliance, and NC HEAT organized a Restorative Justice training at Campbell University School of Law this past weekend. Community members from across the Triangle and beyond joined to learn and practice the restorative justice process. Participants included parents, students, and teachers, as well as key Wake county administrators. Christine Kushner, Chairman, Tina O’Neal, Director of Student Due Process, and Marrius Pettiford, Senior Director of Counseling and Student Services, all joined us.
We were fortunate as well to have Jon Powell, director of the Juvenile Justice Project at Campbell University, to lead our discussion. Jon set the mood by insisting that in our initial introductions we simply say who we are and what we love without mentioning our occupation or position in the community. The room had a diverse mix of age, race, gender identities and status, but in this space we left our titles at the door and communicated as a community with similar interests and aspirations for our schools.
A large component of the gathering was a peace circle, which we held for over 2 hours. One by one we shared our vision of an ideal school system. Common themes were a strong sense of community, physical and emotional safety, increased support for teachers and students, fewer school resource officers, and more counselors. In the evening we watched documentaries about restorative justice projects that brought closure and peace to a murder victim’s family and the perpetrator and ended a long-term feud between two teenagers. Finally, we took a closer look at Wake County in particular and the racial disparities that plague school discipline.
By the end of the day we each had a greater understand of each other, but more importantly, we all decided to continue meeting together to overcome institutionalized racism and make the visions of an ideal WCPSS a reality.