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Are you interested in Restorative Justice? Would you like to learn more about how the philosophy and practice of Restorative Justice is integrated into the Evanston School District 65 classrooms through the sharing circle process?

Restorative Justice is a philosophy that is based on a set of principles, used for centuries in indigenous cultures, which guide the response to conflict and harm.  It keeps people connected within their community by repairing interpersonal harms and rebuilding relationships. Emphasizing the values of empathy, respect, honesty, acceptance, and responsibility, Restorative Justice creates an accountability to oneself and others.  Restorative Justice also develops a greater sense of community, safety and enhances overall social-emotional well-being and competency.

These Restorative Justice principles are at the core of sharing circles.  Sharing circles include all classroom community members in a shared exploration of a particular topic or problem.  Students learn about each other’s perspectives and feelings by providing equal opportunity to speak and listen through the use of a talking piece.  This process allows for a deeper understanding of the complexity of human motivations, the value of diversity, and encourages connections where they may not be obvious.  Not only is a stronger classroom community cultivated by these actions, but teachers also report that students are more centered, ready to learn and aware of their responsibility as a part of the greater whole.

Weekly classroom circles are typically held for 10-week cycles. Trained volunteers are paired with trained teachers and together they implement weekly circles. Topics can focus on Restorative Justice goals, or other topics that the teacher, volunteer, or school may want to highlight.

Volunteers are required to attend training, complete a background check, and be able to attend a weekly sharing circle during the school day. The circle will take place the same day and time each week, so that every effort can be made to match volunteers for the day, time, and school that works best for them. Circles last between 20-40 minutes, depending on grade level.  Volunteers are also asked to attend two pre-scheduled support meetings during the 10-week cycle.

Restorative Justice Classroom Sharing Circles is a collaborative effort among Evanston School District 65, Evanston Police Department Youth Services and community volunteers.

For further information contact Patrice Quehl at PQuehl@CityofEvanston.org