Restorative Practices Changes Treatment of Students

Often we focus on how restorative practices can change our students and school climate. But it
can also change us . . . those responsible for implementation. One Cohort 2 (2014-2015), year 3 administrator tells his/her story.


“Restorative practices has affected me personally by changing the way I interview and question kids about behaviors by using restorative questioning techniques.


This has affected me by creating a shift from punitive actions and a ‘remember what you did’ mindset to working to develop a sense of community and responsibility. This has led to a more productive and trusting relationships with students and parents.


It has changed the way I interact with my own children.”

How has restorative practices affected you personally?


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Experts’ Advice on Implementing Restorative Practices in Schools

This post features advice from experts in the trenches, a certificated staff as well as an administer, both from Cohort 2, Year 3. With only four weeks of school left, this is great advice to keep in mind.

Site Team Leads (Administrator) Advice:

  • Make meaningful decisions as a team
  • Get whole staff agreement on plan
  • Include ALL credentialed AND classified staff
  • Open training to ALL staff
  • Revisit Restorative Practices with staff often

Certificated Staff Advice:

  • Maintain consistency with school side implementation of restorative practices
  • Hold regular staff discussions and trainings on restorative practices
  • Students need ongoing weekly lessons on how they should be safe, respectful, and responsible at school.

Which of these advice tips can you use this week?


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Too Many Carrots But No Jesus

I hadn’t been to the library recently and I needed a new novel, so I stopped at our local bookstore. I breathe in the scent of new books as I enter the store. I glance at the bestselling books as I head towards the novels. I notice that many of the aisles where books used to be are filled with games and puzzles.

I roam the aisles and see a children’s Easter book display. I decide I’ll check this out since I like to buy my grandchildren a new Easter book every year. I’m looking for Easter books based on the real reason for Easter. I’m searching for engaging stories that depict Jesus’ triumphal entry on a baby donkey and other events.

Like the book I gave my granddaughter Kylie, when she was seven-months-old, The Easter Story (2006). This 200 word board book for toddlers is by Patricia A. Pingry and illustrated by Mary Ann Utt. Kylie chewed on this book while I read her the story.

But after roaming several areas of the children’s department, I don’t see what I’m looking for. The clerk isn’t busy, so I inquire, “Do you have any religious Easter books for school-age children?”

“We have one board book, but that’s for younger children. Let me look around.”

The clerk checks different sections. Not finding anything she mentions, “I’m going to check the sales table. I’ll be back.”

I can never spend too much time browsing children’s books, so I don’t mind that she’s gone awhile. Spring is my favorite time of year so I continue flipping through the “Easter” books.

Some books feature cute stories about baby animals with precious drawings. Others are about egg hunts, the Easter bunny, silly stories, and spring. Today’s book special is Too Many Carrots.

Where’s the beautifully illustrated book with breathtaking drawings, Peter’s First Easter (2000)? This book written by Walter Wangerin, Jr. and Timothy Ladwig, published by Zondervan is for 4 to 8 year-olds. Parents and grandparents, you’ll treasure this book too.

The clerk returns with the answer I get every spring when I inquire about Easter books. “We don’t have any other religious Easter books.”

“That’s really sad that you don’t have books about the true reason for Easter,” I reply. I think, maybe if more parents and grandparents requested these books, bookstores might start carrying “The True Story of Easter” alongside Too Many Carrots.

How will children learn about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in a culture focused on eggs and bunnies? Where’s the book Thomas Becomes a Believer: An Easter Story (2002) written by my author friend, Pauline Youd and illustrated by Reg Sandland. This book published by Zondervan is for children 6 and up.

And how will children know that they can accept God’s Easter gift by believing in Jesus? “The Easter Donkey (2014) offers a fresh telling of the Easter story while reminding readers of its wonder. The Easter Donkey tells of Drupelet’s journey to understand the gifts God has given to those who accept them,” (Amazon Books).

This story is written from the donkey’s perspective as he travels with Jesus during what we now call Holy Week. This book by author Donna Thornton along with illustrator Lynne Ballenger Pryor is published by Ambassador International.

How will you teach your children and grandchildren about the real Easter Story? The books I’ve featured are some of my favorites to share with my grandchildren.

But this year, our two oldest grandchildren, who are first and second graders, are using Resurrection Eggs to tell the Easter story. Both grandkids are early readers so they read the booklet’s description and find the corresponding item that goes in each egg. Then they re-tell the story again as they take each item out of the egg so the sibling can read the story.

Interestingly, this is the 20th anniversary of the Resurrection Egg. There are several versions of these available including one that is a “do it yourself” project for children. The great thing about the eggs is that they are a hands-on way to learn.

No matter how you choose to tell children about the real Easter story, the important part is that you tell the story of hope over and over again. As children get older they understand more of the complexities of Jesus dying on the cross and three days later rising from the dead. Have a blessed Easter.



“The Shack” Answers Why Bad Things Happen

Even people, who don’t believe in God, often blame Him when they experience tragedy and loss. Many beg God for answers during extremely difficult circumstances, like heartbreak and catastrophes. During these times both believers and non-believers question, if God is real, why does He cause bad things to happen to good people? If God is so powerful, why doesn’t He stop it from happening? If God loves me, he wouldn’t have taken my child away.

This is the situation in which we find Mack Phillips, husband and father of three, in the recent movie, The Shack. He’s begging God for answers to life circumstances he can’t comprehend nor believe.

The Camping Trip

During a camping trip with his three children, Kate, Josh and Missy, Mack experiences a crisis with one child that leads to a tragedy with another child while his wife, Nan, remains at home.

The Crisis

Mack and his three kids arrive at a beautiful lake and set up camp. Kate and Josh canoe on the lake while Missy colors at a campsite table. When Mack hears a scream and sees the canoe capsized, he runs to rescue his son from underneath the canoe. Mack is beyond relieved when he resuscitates his son. It seems that everyone camping nearby is watching the incident. A predator uses this opportunity to kidnap Missy.

Where’s Missy?

When Mack, Kate and Josh return from this near tragedy, they can’t find Missy. After learning she’s not with friends, forest rangers and police start searching for her. Not long into the movie, we discover other girls just like Missy have been murdered. Upon finding Missy’s bloody clothes in the shack, it is assumed Missy has been tragically killed.

The Invitation Arrives

This event triggers Mack’s decline into depression. By winter time Mack is suicidal and challenging his faith in God. Why God? Why did my Missy have to die? He asks questions that seemingly won’t be answered. That’s when Mack receives an unmarked letter in his mailbox from “Papa” to join Him at the shack. Papa is Nan’s name for God.

At the shack, Mack meets the triune God: Papa who is God, Jesus, and Sarayu, the Holy Spirit. Many Christians get stuck at this point because God is portrayed as a black woman. Interestingly enough, many non-believers seem to hear the movie’s messages loud and clear.

God’s Character

God cares deeply for each person. He often says, “I’m especially fond of you.” God’s love is never ending and unconditional. He knows the future. He longs to reconcile with every person. He offers forgiveness and shows us how to forgive others. We can choose to forgive even those who’ve forced unthinkable pain upon us. He offers hope. And He answers Mack’s troubling questions, but not how he expects.


Because of sin and mankind’s choices, evil in the world happens. God does not cause it, but God allows tragedy to happen. God explains that He is always with us and can bring “incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies.”

I highly recommend The Shack for anyone who’s ever experienced pain and suffering and asked difficult questions about life. This movie offers love, forgiveness and hope. And who can’t use these in the midst of life’s trials and tragedies?

P.S. The original 2007 book, The Shack, is even better than the movie and tells the entire story.

  • The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by William Paul Young, Windblown Media, 2007.
  • The Shack Study Guide: Healing for Your Journey Through Loss, Trauma, and Pain by William Paul Young and Brad Robison, Windblown Media, 2016.


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Fabulous New Restorative Practices Resource

Every few months I scour the internet for newly published restorative practices in schools books and resources. Don’t Suspend Me! An Alternative Discipline Toolkit is more of a resource than a book. You’ll want this resource for you school site.

Book Review

Here’s the review I submitted on Amazon Books. “I shared this book with a restorative practices staff team at a local high school [Davis High School Site Team] a few weeks ago. I have colored post it notes on countless pages. As the book was passed around the group of about 8, more and more positive comments were made. The lead added the book to her ‘purchase’ list.”


“The Discipline Belief Self-Inventory and scoring guide in chapter 2 is excellent. The second part of the book features case studies. But it is part 3 that it truly magnificent. It includes alternative discipline for 13 behaviors. Each behavior incident includes suggestions for alternatives and identifies each one as restorative, instructional, or reflective. These ideas are well done and creative.”

Ready to Use

“But it is the full page strategies, assignments, questions, and charts that are so easy to use and ready to copy for those who purchase the book. When working with busy educators trying something new, this book is ideal and simple to use. Thanks for writing such a practical resource.”

Purchase this Resource

This is a “book” every restorative practices school site team should purchase. Authors Jessica Djabrayan Hannigan and John E. Hannigan. Corwin: A Sage Publication, 2017. Available at Amazon Books in paperback for $27.95 or Kindle Edition for $26.55. Since over half the book features pages to copy for book owners, I suggest the paperback.

Slackers or Doing Our Best?

I set my alarm Saturday night for church tomorrow. My husband, Rick, has a Youth for Christ event, so he won’t be around to give me prompts to keep me on task while getting ready.

The alarm goes off and I’m up. I turn the shower on. But I don’t get in it . . . yet. The longer I’m awake, the more off task I get. In the midst of “getting ready,” I put laundry in the dryer and start another load. I hang dry a number of items. I take photos of Mindy, our geriatric cat lying outside looking cute. I walk to the kitchen to put the receipts in the monthly envelope. You get the idea.

Periodically I ask myself, what am I supposed to be doing? Sometimes I remember – get ready. I often chastise myself for not doing what I need to do. But another question follows, “Are you doing the best you can?”

Am I a Slacker?

No matter how many times I ask myself this question, my answer is never, “You’re such a slacker.” It is always the same answer, “Yes, I’m doing the best I can.” With that clarified, I try to carry on.


But today I recognize this voice. It is Satan and his lies. I think, Yes, I will be late. Being late is better than not going at all. I continue to get ready amidst other random tasks.

Ninety-five minutes after the alarm goes off, I’m finally ready to leave for church. I just have to find my keys . . . get my Bible . . . and choose a coat. I’ll arrive even later. As an adult, I can be hard on myself, are you?

College Acceptance

Are you as hard on your children as you are on yourself? What are your academic expectations for your children? Do you expect straight A’s? Are you pushing your children or teens towards university acceptance at Harvard, Stanford and USC?

“I’m good at _____.”

Until about second grade, children typically believe they can do anything and everything. Around second grade children begin to notice that other children may be better at something, like reading, spelling, or soccer. On the other hand, they also begin to identify what they’re good in. For example, my second grade grandson says, “I’m really good in math.” And he’s right. He is. What are your children’s strengths?


What do your children struggle with? What is difficult for them and discouraging? Growing up, I always struggled with math. I was told that if I didn’t learn my times tables by the time sixth grade started, I’d stay in 5th grade. My mother made me flashcards (no, we didn’t have the dollar store then to buy flashcards) and I practiced every day. I moved on to sixth grade. However, I had to take basic math my freshman year because I was still so far behind. I went in every morning before school to get help.


So how can you encourage your children in areas of struggle? When I earned a C in math, it represented the “best” I could do. My dad dropped me off early at my high school for tutoring. My mom monitored my homework, met with teachers, and made flash cards. They focused more on what I did well, like English, Social Studies, and Home Economics courses. What will work for your children?


I focus the best I can on getting ready for church. I’m pretty late, but no one announces my late arrival from the pulpit or says anything at all. I just join in and praise God that I’d made it there. Your children can make it too with your guidance and encouragement.


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Shoving Stops Using Restorative Practices Questions

A certificated staff from El Vista shared her story using RP questions. “One boy shoved another into a girl, knocking her over. So I met with both boys. I asked Student A what happened. He told what he did. Student B agreed with his recounting of the event.

I asked Student A what he was thinking when he shoved Students B. He said, ‘I was just fooling around.’

Student B said what he needed to be made whole. He said, ‘An apology would be nice and a promise not to do it again.’

Student A apologized and agreed he wouldn’t push the other again.”

It may not always work out this simple, but often it does.

I’m wondering what happened to the girl who was knocked over. In this situation, the teacher could include all three children in the RP questions.

Have you used Restorative Practices Questions this week?


Story from Year 1 Training, Day 3, October 21, 2016.

Restorative Practices Questions cards can be ordered 100 cards for $10.00. RP Questions poster is $8.00.

God’s Unexpected Open Door

One day in August 2013, my husband, Rick, came home from work and said, “A Modesto City School’s (MCS) director called today. They want Youth for Christ Central Valley to train their staff on the school-to-prison pipeline and restorative justice (RJ). You and Marty are perfect. Can you meet with them?”


My colleague, Marty Villa, is a veteran staff counselor with over 40 years with Youth for Christ. One of his roles is work with the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP). Upon discussion, he has no idea what MCS wants us to train on for schools. RJ is usually associated with the courts.


I’m just as clueless. My background in Restorative Justice stems from my dissertation on trying juveniles as adults. I learned that the best way to keep juveniles from being tried as adults is if they never go to court in the first place.

When a first time juvenile offender commits a non-violent crime, instead of sending the offender to juvenile hall, a court officer works with both the offender and the victim. The juvenile is held accountable to restore or make right the harm done to the victim(s).

Meeting with Administrators

Marty and I meet with two District Office administrators to find out more. One administrator explains, “We’ve implemented the Federal zero tolerance policies. But what schools districts all over the U.S. are finding is the unintentional results of these policies.”

He continues, “When we suspend students, they spend time at home, often unsupervised. They often get into more trouble with other unsupervised students. When the students return to school the negative behaviors continue because most punishment doesn’t change behavior. Before long, the students’ behavior escalates which results in further suspensions.”

School-to-Prison Pipeline

The other administrator adds, “This repetitive cycle results in what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline. The more school students miss, the further behind they get, often resulting in dropping out of school, getting into trouble with the law, resulting in incarceration. What kind of training can you provide to fix this?”

“Let me summarize,” I say. “You want us to fix the escalating number of suspensions and keep kids in school so they can graduate?” No small order, I think to myself.

Students of Color

“That’s about it. We forgot to mention racial disproportionality. That basically means that the District suspends more students of color at a higher rate than white students. We need to address that too.”

The District will assign us five schools with the highest suspension rates. They want us to offer trainings over time so staff can assimilate new knowledge and apply what they’re learning with students. They also request training that is highly practical and interactive.

Creating Curriculum

Lucky for the District, Youth for Christ, and me, creating curriculum is my favorite part of teaching. Having developed over 25 high school and college courses, this is the perfect assignment for me. I can work from home at my own pace. I’ll research the topic, and then create a training program using multi-modalities that meets their needs.

But it isn’t luck. It’s God’s unexpected open door. This is my third year on disability and I’m thankful and blessed with the opportunity to use some of my favorite skills. Marty and I leave the meeting with lots of ideas and countless possibilities.

Hope Appears

But something else happens as I leave the meeting. I’m filled with new found hope. It appears that God is going to use my talents and time for something I never even knew existed: Restorative Practices in Schools.


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Colorado RJ Coordinator Hosts California RP Trainer

I was thrilled when I found out I was going to spend a week in Denver with my husband in late January. He’d be involved with the Youth for Christ National Office. I knew immediately I could visit some schools and districts that are further along in implementing restorative practices (RP) than we are in Central California. I’d heard about two schools I wanted to visit. One school was able to accommodate my request.

Meet RJ Coordinator

Anna Bicknase [see photo] was a classroom teacher for 13 years until she created the position of Restorative Justice (RJ) Coordinator. She spent almost four hours with me on Tuesday, January 31, 2017. She introduced me to many other staff that are committed to restorative justice. Even their two campus police officers deal with students in a restorative manner.

Hinkley H.S., Aurora, CO

But RJ didn’t happen overnight. In 2006, a small group of teachers at Hinkley H.S. [see photo] like Ms. Bicknase (a.k.a. the peace princess) sought a better system to discipline students. In the former punitive system, there was a lack of respect, no relationships, blame and shame.

Culture of Care

A number of employees became passionate about changing their school. The Denver Foundation provided initial training on the school-to-prison pipeline for staff, teachers, and students. Dr. Tom Cavanagh from Colorado State University has done extensive training on creating a culture of care, restorative justice, healing the harm, accountability, reintegration, and caring.

Food Bank & School Supplies

A community partnership developed with Food Bank of the Rockies. A storage room was cleared and is now filled with items their students and families may need. Although the food truck comes weekly, one wall is entirely filled with food. The opposite wall is filled with school supplies, like binder paper, folders, index cards, glue sticks, etc. that students may need. Added to that are clothes, prom dresses, and coats. Several students access these resources daily.

Fast Forward to 2017

This is Ms. Bicknase’s first year as the Restorative Justice Coordinator for Hinkley H.S. Much of what they’ve accomplished is because administration is 100% behind making Hinkley H.S. restorative as are about 75% of the teachers. Applying for grants over the years has helped them accomplish goals over time. I hope to see a similar RESTORATIVE word mural [see photo] in the hallways of schools I work alongside.

Concern Circle in Art Class

Shortly after my arrival, I observed a circle of concern that Ms. Bicknase led. When we arrived at the art class, thirty students were assembled on chairs and stools arranged in a circle ready to begin. The students in the class previously completed pop art depicting the norms (or expectations) for their class.

Circle Prompts

Typically the teacher leads the circle, but in this case, the teacher wanted to participate in the circle. Some students are not listening when she speaks and are disrespectful of classmates who want to learn.

On each round, students had prompts to answer honestly. The first prompt was, “What do you like about this class?” Each student answers, and then passes the talking piece to the next student. Another round provided the opportunity for students to state what needs to happen in their classroom to make the norms happen.

Circle Results

By the end of the forty-minute circle, each student stated a specific behavior he/she will change to make the learning environment more effective. Two senior girls shared about friends who are currently at risk for graduating because they’re missing units, even elective units. Their advice left classmates with comments to ponder about their own goals and graduation.

Student Involvement

Many of the school’s accomplishments include the students themselves. Hinkley High School’s mission statement was created by students.

“Students demonstrate positive character and will be academically and socially prepared to successfully participate in our community and the ever-changing world.”

ASB students and peer mediators are an integral part of restorative justice implementation. Students created the RJ poster that is located in every classroom [see photo].

I appreciate how much I learned that I can share with the 16 school sites I work with in Modesto City Schools. Thank you Anna and all those I met, for sharing your valuable journey and lessons learned. I hope someday one of our sites can host a guest wanting to learn more about RP.


Stanford Doctor Persists, “What do you want to do?”

The medical model that focuses on what I can’t do as far as symptoms, asks me to decide what I want to do. Three November blogs lay the foundation for this continued story. “Art Therapy Depicts Values Poster;” “Can Do Versus Can’t Do;” and “Medical Leave Ends in Permanent Disability.”

Over the next few weeks I compile some coherent thoughts.

The next time my Stanford doctor asks what I want to do, I have some answers. “I could do some research. Maybe I could teach a class somewhere. Or I could do some more speaking for MOPS. Or write some articles. I’d like to develop curriculum for a new child development college degree. Or . . .” And so my unrealistic list drones on.

But my doctor doesn’t like my list. Week after week, she persists, “But what do you want to do?”

I guess she wants me to be more specific. For example, I’d like to get a job as a ____ and ____. But I can’t.

  • First, I keep being reminded that I’m unable to return to work.
  • Second, I don’t have the cognitive skills to function very well even in daily living.
  • And finally, if I ever was well enough, there are many possibilities. I could be an author, speaker, educator, researcher, or advocate. Actually, any combination of these might work. Why limit my nonsensical dreams?

I continue my weekly jaunt to Stanford during my third year on disability and not working. I’m able to begin some new activities. I help weekly in Parker & Khloe’s preschool classes. I begin bike riding to improve my brain. I enroll in a quilt class & make Parker a quilt. I attend Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. And I join the Stanislaus Child Development Local Child Care Planning Council that meets monthly.

One day Rick comes home from work and says, “A Modesto City School’s director called today. They want Youth for Christ to train their staff on the school-to-prison pipeline and restorative justice (RJ). You and Marty will be perfect. Can you meet with them?”

Marty Villa, the Director of Family Concern Counseling and I schedule a meeting with the District representative. After years of floundering, this unanticipated meeting launches a new focus and passion in me.


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