Eugene Chapter 1 Member Launches Restorative Practices Program

After establishing the program in the Eugene School District, Georgiann Jones is organizing facilitator trainings for OSEA members who want to bring restorative practices to their own chapters.

In the summer of 2020, the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis sparked a national reckoning with racial injustice and police brutality. Protests touched communities across the country, including OSEA member Georgiann Jones’ hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Like many, Jones watched the protests and wondered, what can we do differently?

Jones, a member of OSEA Eugene Chapter 1, heard her district was facing pressure to remove police officers stationed in schools but hesitated to do so without an alternative in place. She believed she had an answer: creating a district-wide restorative practices program.

Restorative practices is an emerging social science that studies how to strengthen relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities. It is based on the idea that, when we feel like we are part of a supportive community, we respect others in that community and become accountable to it. In school settings, restorative practices empower students themselves to solve problems and resolve conflicts. Instead of being punished when behavior issues arise, students are encouraged to reflect on and take responsibility for their actions and come up with plans to repair harm. Research has shown restorative practices can improve attendance, reduce disciplinary issues and boost graduation rates. They also improve student attitudes toward school and reduce bullying behaviors.

“In a restorative model, kids aren’t labeled ‘bad’ when they break the rules. Students realize they make mistakes and they can be accountable for them. It has benefits for their academics and in their social-emotional behaviors,” said Jones. “It is amazing to watch a kid make a mistake or do something that hurts someone else and immediately own it, listen to the person who was hurt and go about fixing it.”

Jones applied for an Innovation Fund Grant from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), OSEA’s national affiliate, to fund a new restorative practices program. Eugene Chapter 1 and the Eugene School District worked together to launch the program in April, holding an intensive training for restorative practices facilitators from the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP). Several classified staff participated as did two teachers and an assistant principal.

Jones has a lot of hope for the impact the program will have for her students. “For kids who are having difficulties with learning, restorative practices help them find their way, gain confidence and work collaboratively with others. Their academic scores in reading and math go up.”

Now, she is looking for ways to help the program grow. “It was important to me that we build a sustainable program,” Jones said. “When several people from the same district attend the training together, it means we can support one another and ensure restorative practices continue.” She hopes to help other OSEA chapters bring restorative practices to their own districts.

“The idea is to start in one district and then roll it out to other OSEA chapters. It certainly can be used in chapter meetings and school staff meetings, as well as with students.”

Jones and three other facilitators from the initial cohort studied further with the IIRP to become trainers themselves, preparing to share their knowledge and skills with OSEA members who want to bring restorative practices to their own chapters. To learn more or hold a training for your chapter, email Jones.