Amherst schools use restorative justice circles to resolve conflicts
Amherst Regional Middle School seventh-graders Dana Cruz, left, and Laila Smith talk about their experiences with a restorative justice process the school is trying. Photographed on Friday, April 12, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING
When a conflict occurred last month between three seventh-grade Amherst-Pelham Regional Middle School students, officials turned to “the circle” to resolve the conflict.
While suspension was on the table for some of the girls involved in the incident, Evelin Aquino saw it as an chance to put the school’s new restorative justice initiative into action.
Aquino, the school’s climate and culture coordinator, suggested the students hold a circle discussion. The idea behind a restorative justice circle is straightforward — instead of using a punishment like suspension, students and others affected by a conflict are brought together to talk about what happened and what needs to be done to make it right.