Restorative justice goes to school

Detention could soon be a relic of the past, with schools increasingly dropping the punishment in favour of “restorative chats” and other rehabilitative measures.

St Patrick’s College Silverstream is the latest Wellington high school to adopt the restorative justice principles, with a no-detention approach for even the worst troublemakers.

The practice is becoming widespread in schools nationwide, with restorative measures – including encouraging naughty pupils to evaluate their behaviour – replacing traditional behaviour management methods.

While detentions, expulsions and suspensions have been typically used as forms of punishment to control pupil behaviour, restorative principles are based on the idea that a pupil needs to take responsibility for his or her actions.

St Patrick’s Silverstream rector Gerard Tully said that fitted in with the school’s focus on encouraging positive, respectful relationships between pupils and teachers.

Instead of being punished, a misbehaving pupil would discuss the impact of their actions with a teacher.

That could range from a two-minute chat to a formal, sit-down conference. While it would require a shift in thinking, it made more sense to prepare young people to be adults by tackling their problems, Mr Tully said.

“I used to be a real detention man: `If a student does things wrong there must be consequences.’ But it’s a waste of time. What do you achieve by making kids, if they’ve done something wrong on a Monday, come back on Friday afternoon and write out something out of a dictionary?

“It doesn’t actually address the behaviour. This way, the student can think about what they’ve done wrong and who they’ve affected, and how we can resolve it in the future.”

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