Middle and high school teachers at Burlington Public Schools will receive training in a March 9 professional development day on culturally responsive teaching from the Highlander Institute as part of the district’s ongoing restorative justice work.
The instruction is a follow-up on earlier training, according to Superintendent of Schools Eric Conti.
“The initial feedback is largely positive,” Conti said. “Some of the staff felt like it was repetitive, but I think what they also complemented was, it was great to have a common starting point for everybody. They felt like a lot of our training wasn’t required for all to attend, so people were at different levels and it was hard to have a staff-based conversation, so I think they were welcoming a common initiative across both middle and high school.”
In October 2022, 12 BPS teachers attended professional development in restorative justice through Suffolk University’s Center for Restorative Justice. That training was considered Tier 1 restorative justice instruction; Conti said he expected the district would pursue Tier 2 training at a later date. According to the Center for Restorative Justice website, Tier 1 includes an introduction to restorative practices, while Tier 2 involves addressing conflict and harm using restorative practices.
BPS began looking into restorative justice training under the leadership of former Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director Raymond Porch, who has since left the district.
According to Edutopia, an education blog run by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, “Restorative justice empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own and in small groups, and it’s a growing practice at schools around the country. Essentially, the idea is to bring students together in peer-mediated small groups to talk, ask questions, and air their grievances.”
“I’m really glad that we’re moving forward with restorative justice,” said School Committee Member Martha Simon. “From what I’ve learned over the years, that’s an important piece in many school districts to be promoting cultural proficiency and kids getting along with each other and understanding each others’ differences as well as their similarities.”
The update on restorative justice was put on the School Committee’s February 28 agenda at the request of Committee Member Martha Simon, and came after the town Select Board voted not to continue its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcommittee earlier in the month.