By Woo Han
The Mirror Staff
“Everything is done for the students’ academic and social success.”
Restoring Relationships with Restorative Justice
COURTESY OF LUCY TERARAKELYAN
PARENT CIRCLE: Ms. Terarakelyan, Restorative Justice Coordinator, leads parents in a discussion about building a safe and progressive community at Van Nuys High.
“Restorative justice (RJ) is a powerful approach to discipline that focuses on repairing harm through inclusive processes that engage all stakeholders” according to Education Week Magazine.
Not only does it help create and maintain a positive school culture and climate at Van Nuys Senior High School, but it also provides meaningful opportunities for students to develop self-discipline and positive behavior in a caring and supportive environment.
RJ practices at Van Nuys High—overseen by Ms. Lucy Terarakelyan—include building communities, celebrating accomplishments, intervening in offensive behavior, transforming conflict, rebuilding damaged relationships, reintegrating students into the learning environment and many more.
An example of RJ at our school is the Leadership Student Support Club (LSSC). It has its own constitution, objective, and mission. The mission is to provide every student facing difficulties in either their social or academic life to receive peer support. LSSC meets every Wednesday during fourth period.
Many students with truancy problems, lack of motivation and anger management have benefitted from the club. Members are trained in restorative justice to assist anyone in the club that needs support and are also supervised by Ms. Terarakelyan. This is a place where students can receive help in a very safe environment.
Another RJ program is called “Caught Being Restorative” and rewards students who have shown exceptional improvements. Teachers nominate their students that qualify and enter their names into a raffle; each Monday the winners are called into the RJ office to collect prizes.
Programs like this are offered to encourage students to better themselves through RJ, and have been effective in improving students’ social and academic life.
RJ provides programs for the parents as well, one of which took place in October and was a community building circle with around 30 parents.
The purpose of this circle was to show the parents what the students experienced inside the classroom to build a safe and progressive community at Van Nuys High.
During the circle, Ms. Terarakelyan addressed how the students build relationships and trust while establishing values such as responsibility and respect.
Parents shared their own experiences and their best practices with their own children. Many acknowledged the support their children were receiving from the school, but emphasized that everything starts from home.
The focus was that the same values being taught at school should be taught at home as well, so that students would already be familiar with those practices.
Parents were able to provide support to one another and expressed enthusiasm about additional meetings in the future.
A parent-based community circle will be held every month about different topics, such as how to increase student motivation or how to help the students with their schoolwork.
Although RJ offers a multitude of programs that tackles different aspects of student problems, Ms. Terarakelyan puts it best: “Everything is done for the students’ academic and social success.”
PHOTO BY SHIMLA RAHMAN MIRROR STAFF