Center for Community Justice: Pioneering Restorative Justice Education in Schools

In a profound presentation led by Anne Lehman and Graham Salinger from the Center for Community Justice (CCJ), attendees were offered a detailed glimpse into the transformative potential of Restorative Justice Education (RJE) within schools. Both presenters, with their extensive experience in restorative mediation and facilitation, conveyed the center’s longstanding commitment to fostering vibrant, safe, and engaged communities.

The CCJ, with a history tracing back to 1984 under the guidance of Howard Zehr, has always been at the forefront of championing restorative justice. This presentation was an embodiment of their dedication to this mission. The focus was clear – understanding how RJE practices could be seamlessly integrated into educational institutions, thereby reshaping the ethos of community building and conflict resolution.

Anne Lehman, who has been an integral part of CCJ since 2008, emphasized the necessity of establishing a strong rapport with local schools. She illustrated the proactive measures the center had taken in not just implementing restorative practices, but also in ensuring the ripple effects of these practices permeated throughout the community. The narrative was enriched by her passion for helping communities heal and her personal experience in facilitating workshops and training sessions.

Graham Salinger, who joined the CCJ team in 2019, further delved into the specifics. Drawing upon his role in spearheading the Promise Academy For Conflict Transformation (PACT), a juvenile diversion program, Salinger laid out the center’s vision for youth both within and outside the school setting. He also expanded on the CCJ’s consultative role with a local school district, illuminating the intricate processes behind RJE implementation.

A standout segment of the presentation revolved around professional development and training. Both Lehman and Salinger stressed the significance of tailoring restorative justice training to cater to educators and school administrators. Their insights, garnered from hands-on experience, painted a vivid picture of the challenges faced and the strategies devised to overcome them. They underscored the pivotal role played by district leadership in laying the groundwork for a holistic, district-wide cultural metamorphosis.

The duo also delved into the more hands-on aspects of their roles, discussing the community-building circles they had facilitated. These circles, they explained, were not just conflict resolution tools but platforms for deeper, more meaningful community connections. The presenters emphasized how referrals from schools to CCJ had led to transformative interventions, turning potential crises into opportunities for growth and understanding.

Closing their presentation, Lehman and Salinger highlighted the center’s relentless pursuit of its mission to bring about change through restorative justice. Their message was unambiguous – schools, as pillars of communities, need to embed restorative justice education at their core. This not only paves the way for a more harmonious learning environment but also equips the next generation with the tools to build a more just, understanding, and engaged society.

The presentation by the Center for Community Justice served as a beacon of hope and a testament to the transformative power of restorative justice, particularly in the realm of education. It was a compelling call to action for educators, administrators, and community leaders to embrace and propagate this approach for a brighter, more harmonious future.