The Aroostook County Action Program (ACAP) proudly recognizes two of its staff members for their continued professional development. Program Supervisor Randall Reischer and Community Educator Brandi Perry have recently received certifications from the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP). The core principles of restorative practice come from thousands of years of diverse global indigenous backgrounds. Restorative practice itself, a nascent social science, looks at relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities as a focal point for growth and often in need of repair. By focusing on building relations, restorative practices seek to strengthen connections, prevent or resolve conflicts, and ensure that every voice is heard. As a community action agency, ACAP realizes the significance of how this kind of training can be applied anywhere within our schools, workplaces, college campuses, neighborhoods and families.
Reischer, who completed certification of IIRP Conference Facilitating and Training-the-Trainer for Facilitators, says that the “International Institute for Restorative Practices is a global leader and standard bearer for this field. By joining the international effort, we are ensuring fidelity to the principles guiding restorative justice beyond the County and the borders of Maine.”
Restorative justice conferences specifically address incidents where harm has occurred. Harm can be identified as anything from bullying, fighting and destruction of property to larger community wide incidents of hate, such as targeted race and LGBTQ+ populations. A conference is a safe encounter to gather together those who have caused harm, been harmed, and any stakeholder in the incident. They then share their own perspectives, state their personal needs, and come to a consensus about how to repair the harm and include all parties moving forward as a stronger community.
Since last October ACAP has had 17 youth successfully complete the restorative process, despite the pandemic. All of these youth gave a 90+% satisfaction rating of the experience including items of opportunities for honesty, fair treatment, and gaining a new perspective. As an agency, we have re-written our protocols to transition to virtual and hybrid circles, acquired three loaner hotspot-enabled iPads to overcome access issues, and brought on two new facilitators to better meet community needs.
Perry, who completed Restorative Practices for Educators and is certified to train others, speaks about how restorative practices will help carry out her tasks throughout the region: “When I learned that restorative practices were about building community, repairing any hurt or harm, and letting people be heard, I wanted to go into the schools in Aroostook County and help the teachers and students repair strained relationships. The students have voices and opinions that deserve to be heard in a respectful way, and teachers deserve to voice their concerns and displeasure without shaming the students. Now I get to help bridge that gap and watch the relationships heal and build a healthy and safe community within the schools.”
A topic always worth highlighting, the improvements of relations between youth and their teachers, is promising to regions all across the United States. Research shows significant valuable outcomes when using restorative practice techniques as opposed to traditional approaches for student misbehavior. By increasing academic outcomes and decreasing student delinquency, Aroostook County can see a new growth of generations mature thanks to our staff’s dedication to the community with these practices.