I walked into Pittsfield Middle High School (PMHS), in Pittsfield, NH a few weeks ago and was met, as always, by Gloria, the ever-bubbly, always-welcoming, best-ever front-office secretary! Gloria is a key member of the school’s Restorative Justice Committee and her involvement on this important team says a lot about her school. Gloria beamed with a warm hello and smile and said, “Hey Bill, did you see it yet?” *
“See what?”, I said.
“ We made the front page!” and she flew to her desk and grabbed a copy of our local paper, the Concord Monitor. There they were. Students from PMHS’s new Restorative Justice Committee (the JC) featured on the front page under the headline, A New Kind of Justice (Read the article here).
The article described how students and teachers from PMHS realized, after collecting and reviewing their school climate data, that their school’s discipline system was seen by both students and teachers as ineffective. Their student school climate leadership team, called IMPACT, determined to do something better. After two full years of research on alternative approaches to school discipline, visits to other schools to see how different models worked, a complete re-write of their student handbook, the creation of their own new disciplinary model based on the principles of Restorative Justice, and presentations to the administration, the student body, and the school board, they had rolled out a pilot of the new Justice Committee in the fall. After successful test cases, the new alternative disciplinary model is now open for business, announced by this front page article for all to see.
Congratulations IMPACT, the PMHS Justice Committee, school leaders, and Jenny Wellington who worked tirelessly with these students as a guide and mentor! After my interviews with your students and some of your first clients, I can tell you that you nailed this! (for an excerpt from our evaluation of the pilot program please contact email@example.com.)
For more information on school climate improvement, student leadership, or how schools like PMHS are using restorative justice programs, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
*(NOTE: A person like Gloria can make a huge difference in the climate and culture of a school. Her warm welcome starts everybody’s day off on the right foot. f your front office personnel ignore, bark at, or send off a “mean” vibe to everyone who enters your school, then your school starts off every day in a hole when it comes to positive school climate. (learn more about cool brain research on ‘mirror-neurons’ to see just how powerful a smiling face like Gloria's can be and the power of facial expression, cognitive empathy, and emotional contagion. Why does this baby cry when her mother sings?).