findings help to challenge the stereotypes that kids of color
come from broken families and white kids come from good
families. Racism hurts all kids when we overlook the white
kids thinking they have no problems or overjudge the kids
of color as having too many problems.)
A trauma-informed school also means a school that
understands power, privilege, and oppression, so schools
can finally grow past the white-centric view of the world
that schools have focused on for far too long. It means
teachers who understand that implicit bias does affect how
we approach and see conflict in the classroom. Although
African–American students represent 16 percent of the
public-school student population, they make up 33 percent of students suspended once, 42 percent of those
suspended more than once, and 34 percent of students
expelled. If those kids happen to be LGBTQ, similar numbers
show up. We need to stop punishing kids when culturally acceptable behaviors for them collide with culturally
acceptable things for us. We punish them for not making
eye contact with us when we talk with them, misunderstanding that making eye contact would be disrespectful
in their culture and family to do so. In some cultures, cutting people off when they talk is a way of showing you’re
engaged, while in other cultures, that might be seen as disrespectful or dismissive.
WHAT US TRAUMA-INFORMED SWRP?
Next, let me explain trauma-informed School-Wide
Restorative Practices (SWRP). This involves two parts. On
the front-end of SWRP, we have to build a container based
on safety, relationship, trust, and understanding. This
means using activities such as circle processes, mindfulness, respect agreements, Nonviolent Communication, and
mindfulness to build a space where we can talk about the
tough stuff. It also means creating a community in which
each member understands our collective responsibility to
each other. This is based on the belief that we each have
a role in the culture around us. That is, I may not be the one
who committed the crime but I need to recognize my role in
creating the circumstances that led to it. Creating this sense
of community connection is a non-negotiable in making
this work. We cannot restore a community we didn’t build.
On the back-end, SWRP means responding to harms, not
by asking “who did it?” or “what rule did they break?” and
• What is the harm?
• Who has been harmed?
We focus on how we balance the needs of those who
create harm and those affected by harm, including the
community, all in the same healing space. This approach to
student behavior seeks to hold both the individuals and the
community collectively accountable for the harm through
healing rather than through meting out punishment.
A School-Wide Restorative Practices school is also one
where adults are focused on understanding the stress
response system of the brain. Where they see behavior
not as good or bad, but regulated or dysregulated. When
we see the behaviors as good, bad, right, or wrong, we are
likely to punish or “manage” behaviors. When we see kids as
“in-struggle” and dysregulated, we tend to seek to support
them, and help them regulate their stress response through
first feeling safe. We focus not on the behavior but on the
unsolved problems that led to the behavior.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
This approach requires a number of skills and practices
to make it authentic and helpful. In my trainings, I have
identified and shared five skills I believe are essential to
implementing and carrying out trauma-informed SWRP.
They include, in no particular order, mindfulness, empathic
listening, honest expression, the art of asking questions,
and the art of making requests. Let’s briefly look at how
each of these supports the work.
Mindfulness in schools allows us to show up and be present
to students and ourselves. We need to be alive in the moment
while we teach, interact, and care for students. Teachers who
forgot to put on their own oxygen mask are far less likely to
be patient, empathic, and connected to the youth they teach.
Mindfulness for teachers means self-care. It means being
present to what we are modeling for students. (e.g., yelling at
students that they are not to yell may not be the most mindful way of showing up.)
Although African–American students
represent 16 percent of the public-school
student population, they make up 33 percent of
students suspended once, 42 percent of those
suspended more than once, and 34 percent
of students expelled.