Summary: Restorative Justice applies restoration instead of punishment when someone has wronged another. The approach focuses on the victim, family, and school, with the intention of finding a way for the offender to take responsibility and make the situation right. The perspectives of both the offender and the victim are important.
Target grades: 7th and above
Minimum time needed: 40 minutes
Materials needed: none
Connection to bullying: strategies for effective conflict resolution, understanding different points of view (why people behave as they do)
Have a student read the following scenario:
Sam and Rob have been friends for a long time, and they have just started junior high together. Sam doesn’t know many kids at the new schools, but Rob knows a lot through his soccer club. Last week, Sam and Rob took a picture of themselves, a “selfie” sitting on Rob’s beds. They had just gotten back from playing basketball outside, and since it was a hot day they had taken their shirts off. When Rob saw the photo, he said “We look like a couple of queers.” Rob told Sam to delete the picture, but Sam didn’t because he thought it was funny.
Yesterday at lunch, Rob sat down with his soccer friends instead of eating with Sam, which made Sam feel left out. While Sam was eating, he posted the picture on Instagram. By the time Rob saw it, the picture had been shared by most of the school, and people had started to talk about the picture. One of Sam’s classmates made a comment about “Sam and Rob, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.”
Sam was so angry that when he saw Rob at school the next day, he pushed him down. A teacher saw Sam push Rob down, and now Sam is in the office.
Have the class or students working in small groups answer the following questions:
- We usually think of events having a “victim” and an “offender.” Who is the victim and who is the offender in this scenario?
- If we define a victim as someone who was hurt, either physically or psychologically, who is a victim? How was Sam hurt? How was Rob hurt?
If we define an offender as someone who hurts someone else, who is an offender? What did Sam do to cause hurt? What did Rob do?
- The concept of restorative justice focuses on addressing the actions that led to someone being hurt, and trying to reduce the harm. Instead of suspending Sam, for example, he is offered the chance to help those who he hurt feel better.
If you were Sam, what could Rob do to make you feel better?
If you were Rob, what could Sam to do make you feel better?