Restorative Justice Is Collective Work – And Parents Need to Be Included

A screenshot of a virtual Zoom panel. It's a grid with six women and one man.

When schools want Lynn Morton, founding co-chair of POWER-PAC IL, to do restorative justice (RJ) training, the first thing she asks is: How many parents do you have lined up for this training?

“[Restorative justice] is not a school-only thing. This is about the school community in its totality,” Lynn said at a panel on Oct. 18 hosted by COFI and POWER-PAC IL in recognition of the National Week of Action Against School Pushout. “School districts have to understand and accept that parents can do this work.”

Each October, COFI and POWER-PAC IL join the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) for the National Week of Action. This year’s theme was “Educate. Liberate. Elevate!” and parent leaders focused on bringing attention to restorative justice – a practice that gives students who misbehave an opportunity to “repair the harm” they caused – and how parents can contribute to a safer school environment.

The panel covered the indigenous roots of restorative justice, the essential pillars of RJ, and resources and challenges to implementing it. Lynn was joined by Carlos Guillen, I.M.P.A.C.T. Restorative Practices Program Supervisor; Nicole Riley, Restorative Justice Practitioner of Teachers Unite NY; Talaya L. Tolefree, Founder and CEO of Koinonia Leadership Academy; and Taeko Onishi, Lyons Community School Principal Co-Director.

You can watch the panel here.

Aurora and Elgin Community Conversations

Alongside the panel, the Elementary Justice Campaign of POWER-PAC IL hosted community conversations in Aurora and Elgin about school discipline and social-emotional resources for students. Several school district officials from Aurora and Elgin attended the conversations, and afterward, they quickly followed up and invited parents to talk more about school discipline and restorative justice in schools. Go Aurora and Elgin parents!

A large group photo from the Elgin event. It has about 31 adults and one baby
A group photo from Aurora. It includes 14 adults and one child.

Parent-to-Parent Conversation in Chicago

The Elementary Justice Campaign also led a parent-to-parent conversation on Oct. 19 at Roberto Clemente Community Academy about school safety and restorative justice. Parents discussed safety situations that worry them in schools, how schools handle school discipline, and whether the current response prevents problems.

A group of Black and Brown parents in a classroom

Many parents expressed dissatisfaction and concern with punitive punishments that don’t address the social and emotional needs of students and remove students from the classroom. POWER-PAC IL leaders advised parents to engage with school staff, get involved with their local school council, and be familiar with the student code of conduct handbook, which states Chicago Public Schools’ commitment to restorative approaches to addressing the underlying roots of student behaviors.

Congratulations to the Elementary Justice Campaign for another successful Week of Action in partnership with Dignity in Schools!