Beginning in 2014, Southwest Horizon embarked on an initiative to train all staff in the implementation of Restitution with our students. To date, over 95% of all Southwest Horizon School Division employees have received training.
Restitution is a proactive process which teaches self-discipline and responsibility, and one that requires thinking rather than reacting. In Restitution training, we learn that all behavior is designed to fill a need, and that there is no inherently bad behavior. The focus then becomes on what need that behavior was trying to fill, and finding a different, more acceptable way to fill that need. It also encourages youth to self-assess their behaviour and how it affects others, as well as themselves, as they reflect on their own beliefs and values. Restitution teaches youth to behave because they believe it’s the right thing to do for themselves and others, not just because of what others will do to or for them.
This restitution is not the same as you may hear about in connection with the prison system, as that is based on consequences or ‘paying back’ to avoid further punishment or incarceration. Restitution creates safe conditions and mindsets for meaningful conversations that are neither threatening nor shameful. Studies have shown that people who do not feel safe cannot feel empathy, nor think logically, as their brain triggers a ‘fight or flight’ response. Through dialogue, youth are encouraged to think about their behaviour; about their beliefs and what kind of person they want to be; how their behaviour does/doesn’t reflect their beliefs; how their behaviour affects others, and what they believe they need to do to restore themselves to the person they want to be.
Restitution does include bottom lines, which are behaviours deemed totally unacceptable by staff and parents. Generally, these are behaviours that interfere with learning, or threaten the safety of the youth and/or others. In these cases, removal from the environment is a consequence, with restitution implemented as a follow up. Restitution in schools builds on family beliefs by asking youth to evaluate why their rules at home are important, and connecting those reasons with rules generated at school. Restitution is linked to academic success as more time can be spent on learning than on issues related to discipline.
For another explanation of what restitution is, please click on this link. Ms. Gray is one of the trainers working with divisional staff, and frequently updates her blog with informative and thought-provoking posts centered around restitution.