Van Horn Joins the Peace Party

Van Horn joins the Peace Party !

Van Horn High School in Independence, Missouri,  is adopting the principles of Restorative Justice. They are slowly becoming embedded in the culture of the school, replacing the current structure that mandates expulsion for many incidences of misbehavior. Schools are experiencing a high number of office referrals and disciplinary actions because of violent student behavior. “Restorative Justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.” (Zehr 2002). Staff at the mediation center have been visiting, meeting with and training teachers since the beginning of the school year, as well as providing neutral third party mediation upon request from Dr. Netzer, the school principal.

I became involved recently with a core group of 10 teachers and administrators, when they requested a sample of the circle process they learned about in training. The goal is for every student to experience the supportive and empowering effects of a weekly problem solving circle process. As the group of teachers assembled in the library, after school on a Thursday, I noticed a comfortable and supportive camaraderie that I’ve found lacking in many schools I visit. The circle I shared with them began with a quote from Margaret Wheatley.  “We have the opportunity many times a day, every day, to be the one who listens to others, curious rather than certain. It’s not differences that divide us. It’s our judgments about each other that do.”

Each participant shared circumstances surrounding a lasting and meaningful conversation they’ve experienced. One teacher told of a delightful conversation with a three year old niece. Another told of a spontaneous talk with a parent exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer’s. A third participant shared a conversation in which a student dropped her ‘tough act’ for just a moment. Each story held emotion, power and surprise. The participants spoke of slowing down, listening with curiosity and setting judgment aside. The circle process affords participants the validation that comes from listening with intention to others and from truly being heard.

A forward thinking high school administration and staff that recognizes the importance of listening to young people, supporting them in taking responsibility for their actions, to insure that they’re on their way to becoming confident adults. Welcome to the Peace Party!

You are invited! Decide to be curious instead of certain.

If you would like to donate to the work of CMC, just follow the link


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nathan
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 21:41:25

    Congratulations on your blog!

    It is great to hear good news about Van Horn. I hope that school will become a strong anchor for western Independence.


  2. Barbara
    Jun 18, 2011 @ 01:25:26

    The powerful work of Restorative Justice is changing schools one teacher & student at a time. Kudos to the leadership team for providing this opportunity–and to Van Horn for courageously participating.


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