Recently, a group of twelve students at Compton Unified’s Enterprise Middle School were invited to take part in Restorative Circles facilitated by skilled CYS volunteers. The circles provide a place to address hurtful behaviors and repair harms while building relationships.
Under the leadership of CYS Lead Schools and Community Partnerships Specialist Pat Parker, and facilitated by CYS volunteer mediators Jackie Taylor, Lameka Bell, and Ken Bryant, three one-hour circles sessions were held on consecutive Tuesdays. Lameka, who is a peace officer with Hawthorne Police Department, brought along her two service dogs trained to provide emotional support to people under stress. The introduction of the dogs served as a warm and delightful icebreaker, and the dogs further supported the group by identifying students experiencing stress and lying down at their feet.
All the students invited had been engaged in fights during the previous two months. Under the guidance of the facilitators, the students established the norms (rules) they wanted to observe. The first session was devoted to establishing trust and sharing perspectives on conflict. The second was spent exploring the impacts of their actions on others. And the third focused on a discussion of what each of them could have done differently.
As more empathy developed between the students, the “wisdom of the group“ emerged, and participants began to collaboratively generate more constructive behavioral responses to use in the future. All the students agreed that “Sometimes you think you have to do something, but actions have consequences.” As Jackie remarked, “By the third session, we sensed the students were onto something great. We witnessed the birth of hope.” CYS will offer the circles at additional Compton schools this spring,