Restorative Justice Training Sessions Held at SCSD

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Teachers in the Syracuse City School District have taken part in professional development sessions to help them learn about cultural competence and restorative practices, building on the ongoing work being done in the SCSD surrounding the importance of building vibrant school cultures and community.
The Syracuse Cultural Competency Institute trainings were provided by The Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools and featured discussions led by Restorative Justice expert Robert Spicer. Restorative practices focus on the importance of individual accountability and collective accountability and repairing the harm that is caused by conflict. Sessions included activities like peace-making circles to address underlying reasons for conflicts.
“It was my pleasure to facilitate these Restorative Practices workshops with support staff in the Syracuse City School District,” Mr. Spicer said. “It was awesome to be invited to schools and sit with staff and students.  I want to thank all of you for your warm hospitality and willingness to sit in Circle and learn this practice.  I want to personally thank Ms. Dana Crockett, Ms. Evette Williams and Tabitha Ngwashi, who took time out of their busy schedules as teachers in SCSD to co-train with me.”
Teachers say they found the training to be valuable and it reinforced and reenergized them to why they are committed to urban education. Teachers acquired valuable tools and techniques that could be used immediately in their classrooms, such as being mindful of how things are phrased, responding to the issues with an awareness that incorporates cultural differences and empowering students to learn about cultural differences. Teachers were also encouraged to be a part of the development of the learning community and reframing conflict to think about the intent of a behavior.
Teachers found the training to be the next step needed in building strong learning communities. One teacher stated, “This training was serious yet fun discussion about how to create safe and accepting environments.”  Teachers also said they appreciated how the training engaged them in experiencing the very restorative circles they could use with students. 
Participants were validated in the day-to-day struggles they encounter but still walked away with the tools and knowledge to improve the learning community both inside and outside of the school building.
Moving forward, each school will be sending members of the School Intervention Team to participate in a four day ‘Train the Trainer’ program this summer, which will allow schools to develop a plan for their entire building to have all staff trained in restorative practices. It will also ensure that schools have internal support for day-to-day implementation throughout the 2015-2016 school year.