How Restorative Practices can Create Positive Changes in a School’s Culture: An Interview from The Prevention Researcher

Restorative practices are prevention strategies used in organizations to proactively build relationships and a sense of community with the goal of preventing conflict and wrongdoing. Christopher Plum, Ph.D., from the Plymouth Education Center in Detroit discusses how restorative practices created positive changes in a school district in an interview with The Prevention Researcher, the quarterly journal focused on successful adolescent development.

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Christopher Plum, Ph.D.

Christopher Plum, Ph.D. Interview in The Prevention Researcher

... since implementing restorative practices our attendance has gotten better. In fact, across the entire district we’re up in the mid-nineties ...

Eugene, OR (PRWEB) January 17, 2013

"The secret to the success of restorative practices and why they have such a profound impact is because they deal with relationships,” says Christopher Plum, Ph.D., interim superintendent of Detroit’s Plymouth Education Center in an interview with The Prevention Researcher. “And they help people create a framework for developing healthy relationships and working together.”

Currently working in a K-12 charter school district in the heart of Detroit, Dr. Plum previously served as a team leader in the inaugural class of AmeriCorps and the National Civilian Community Corp. After completing AmeriCorps, he began an exciting journey teaching in private, traditional public and charter schools while also instructing students with disabilities at Beaumont Hospitals Center for Human Development.

In the interview about changing school culture with restorative practices, Dr. Plum noted that his school district started with a comprehensive needs analysis that led to exploring best practices for implementing changes. He said “our district steering committee landed on restorative practices and it just really resonated with us. Even though we’re an independent charter school and we’ve got a lot of commuters we’ve always considered ourselves a community school and we do our best to create community – so restorative practices was very natural.”

The school district started by training everyone. According to Dr. Plum, “anybody who was going to come in contact, potentially come in contact with a student at any point in the day was trained. What we wanted to make sure was that everybody really embodied the philosophical underpinning and framework of restorative practices which fundamental hypothesis is you operate from this place that people will do good and will want to perform if they feel that things are being done with them instead of to them or for them.”

“We started by implementing affective statements and really utilizing the restorative questions when harm has been done,” said Dr. Plum. “We have our standard set of questions that we ask when something has gone wrong – what has happened, what were you thinking at the time, what have you been thinking about since? And what do you think needs to be done to make it right? And really putting the onus and accountability back on people who have potentially made a choice that has caused harm.”

Among the changes in the schools Dr. Plum notes “since implementing restorative practices our attendance has gotten better. In fact, across the entire district we’re up in the mid-nineties. So being a commuter school and being a Detroit school that’s something that we really want to hang our hat on. Also, one of the big changes I’ve noticed is just the buy in and the voice that all of our students get.”

“Our goal is to banish anonymity in this district,” said Dr. Plum. “And I feel like we’ve done that. Among students in our graduating class we had near 100 percent of our kids graduate last year and 95 percent of them go to a 2 or 4-year school. And to a kid, they tell you hey, this is a place where I feel valued and people will listen to me. That’s huge change.”

To make restorative practices effective, Dr. Plum notes that “one of the key elements is making it mandatory. I mean right out of the gate, the training wasn’t optional. You know, we did our best to let everybody in the district know – your peers on the steering committee forwarded this as a recommendation. This came from your voice and it came from the data. We agree on that. Now, what we all need to agree on is that this is what we’re doing and there’s no going back. And then success breeds success.”

In addition, said Dr. Plum “one of the other key elements is trusting the process ourselves. And this is where it gets a little deep because we know kids can smell a rat. If they see that they’re going through something and the adults around them aren’t, that’s a problem. So one of the keys is doing this across the board.”

Dr. Plum summarizes the use of restorative practices by saying “We use the questions. We come up with commitments. We all agree and we move forward. And that’s the way that we mitigate problems and move through problems. So I think that’s another key that I really want to lift up is that everybody does it.”

For a copy of the complete interview with Dr. Christopher Plum on “Changing School Culture with Restorative Practices,” link directly to The Prevention Researcher or http://www.tpronline.org

About The Prevention Researcher

Founded in 1994, The Prevention Researcher is published by the non-profit, Integrated Research Services in Eugene, Oregon. The quarterly journal focuses on successful adolescent development and serves professionals who work with young people in a variety of organizational settings.

Each issue of The Prevention Researcher covers a single topic, presenting the latest adolescent behavioral research and findings on significant issues facing today’s youth. The journal provides information about programs that create supportive environments for youth, strategies for preventing problems affecting adolescents, and resources that help youth-serving professionals.


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