George Lucas Educational Foundation
Social and Emotional Learning

Justice Committee: Using Restorative Practices to Resolve Conflicts

Students at Pittsfield Middle High School are trained to mediate conflicts between their fellow students—and between students and teachers.
This is part of a series that features key practices from Pittsfield Middle High School in New Hampshire.
View a transcript of this video

Jenny: But that's not the point. The point isn't who's throwing it. The point is Charles feels like it was a personal attack, and that's why he got angry.

Mackenzie: From my point of view, Mitchell's not intending to hit you with the frisbee.

Kianna: So you see how reacting in the way you did affected Mitchell.

Charles: Yeah, I can see that.

Jenny: Because we practice Restorative Justice, we are teaching students to take personal responsibility for their actions. Students learn conflict resolution and learn how to resolve their own issues.

Mackenzie: Mitchell said all he wants is an apology.

Jenny: Restorative Justice in schools is the idea that you have done something to hurt the community, and you need to fix it to make it right. This is opposed to a traditional discipline system which says, "You did something wrong, and now you must be punished for it." At our school Restorative Justice dovetails with the traditional system. So the students can go to the Justice Committee, instead of getting suspensions and detentions. We offer it as an alternative way for students to resolve issues with each other or with teachers.

Jenny: The Justice Committee is made up of students and faculty that help teach students how to mediate conflict.

Jenny: We have like perception--

Jenny: Today we were training our new Justice Committee members. We do mock mediations and play out a scenario that could happen in school.

Mitchell: I was very frustrated because we weren't doing it on purpose.

Mitchell: The roles in Justice Committee as the Teacher-Mediator, they're there to have an adult present in the room.

Mackenzie: Either of you can answer this.

Mitchell: Then there is Facilitator 1 and 2. They go back and forth between asking the questions and helping solve the issue. Then you have the Affected Party and the party that caused the issue.

Kianna: J.C. is here to help both parties reach an understanding. We are not here to determine who is right or wrong.

Kianna: The mock mediation gave me and Mackenzie an opportunity to practice being a Facilitator. And it also gave our new members an opportunity to see a meeting.

Jenny: We start off following a script. We start with the Affected Person. And then move to the Responsible Party. We try and get their stories heard.

Mackenzie: Mitchell, could you please tell us what has been happening?

Mitchell: Charles was getting annoyed with the fact that we kept interfering with his basketball game.

Jenny: Mitchell was playing the role of the Affected Party.

Mitchell: One time when my frisbee crossed the line and he got a little aggravated and he ended up throwing it on the roof.

Kianna: So Charles, can you tell us your side of the story?

Charles: I told him to leave us alone.

Jenny: Charles is playing the role of the Responsible Party.

Charles: I mean, he lost his frisbee, so what? It's a frisbee.

Jenny: And then it moves into the discussion. And it's the discussion and the probing questions that takes the most work in training students.

Jenny: I want to just stop for a second. So what's going on with Charles' body language right now?

Kianna: Nonchalant, doesn't care.

Jenny: Yeah.

Mitchell: Some of the challenges that we have is the fact that not everyone wants to participate and see the other person's point of view.

Jenny: Charles agreed to come here.

Mitchell: We get around that by reminding them that they agreed to be here.

Kianna: Charles, can you take your earbuds out?

Rebecca: The Facilitators were really good at finding positive ways to say what needs to be said.

Jenny: Jump back in. We need to figure out what Mitchell needs, and we need to get Charles to understand Mitchell's perspective.

Kianna: Mitchell, what do you need to feel better about this situation?

Mitchell: I would feel better if I got an apology. Jenny: It's not about punishing the person responsible. It's about giving the person who's affected what they need.

Kianna: Do you think you overreacted?

Charles: Yeah.

Mackenzie: And Mitchell, do you understand why Charles got frustrated?

Mitchell: Yeah, I honestly do.

Charles: Having both parties see each other's sides is important for resolving the issue.

Mitchell: Apology accepted.

Charles: No one wants to be in a fight. But they don't always know how to fix the problem. So Justice Committee is a way to help them realize what they need to do and to do it.

Jenny: I give you a lot of credit. This is really hard stuff. So thank you, everyone!

Mackenzie: That was fun!

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Good piece of information. I am a school administrator who wishes to have more details on these strategies used to resolve conflicts in schools. Your quick response will be appreciated.

Maria Jesus Gomez Gomez's picture

I'm very interested in this topic as well, I think it can make a difference in our students and schools . Thank you for sharing. I'm learning a lot with you

Rhitt Growl's picture
Rhitt Growl
Digital Media Facilitator, Satellite Center, Luling, LA

Our district has started reading and implementing strategies from the book "Better Than Carrots or Sticks: Restorative Practices for Positive Classroom Management" by Dominique Smith, Douglas Fisher, and Nancy Frey. It is a quick read with practical strategies that you can begin implementing immediately.

Sierra Shaw's picture

I am a Restorative Discipline Facilitator here in Waco, Texas and I love Restorative Justice. It definitely helps resolve conflicts and addresses so much more for at risk students and their families.

Melinda King's picture

Very good information. I liked their point of view to fix rather than punish. The problem-solving principle can be adapted for kindergarten classes too - has anyone tried something similar for younger classes?

Alex Shevrin's picture
Alex Shevrin
Community college teacher, former school leader, Edutopia community facilitator

Melinda, you can use restorative practices at any age! You might also enjoy Ross Greene's approach - check out his book Lost at School.

JHandrigan's picture

Restorative justice is an integral part of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation process. Schools are an important part of communities directly and indirectly affected. Pittsfield's example demonstrates the importance of effective training and modeling to support everyone in an authentic manner. Thanks for sharing!

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