The Use of Restorative Justice Practices in the Recovery of a School Traumatized by Intended Violence: A Case Study

By Susan Mateer and Ellyn M. Dickmann.

Published by The International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 26, 2014 Free Download

Police investigated a report of a planned act of school violence in a junior high school in Colorado; specifically, three students were planning “to do a Columbine”, bringing guns and bombs to school. Although the plot was interrupted when a student reported it to police (no one was physically hurt), the school community experienced harm to its climate, sense of safety, and reputation as a result of this incident and the ensuing publicity. This case study examines the actions taken to repair that harm, asks how these actions were restorative yet innovative in nature, and seeks to understand how restorative practices may be used in other school communities experiencing similar traumatic events. We will look at each step taken during the school's recovery and explore how those actions fit into a restorative paradigm. What is of particular interest is how these practices served to transform the school’s climate from one of fear and uncertainty to one of inclusion and security. Not only was the school restored to pre-harm condition, it was transformed into a better school for having undergone the trauma. Today, vestiges of that time continue to affect the school’s climate in positive ways.

Keywords: Restorative Justice, Transformative Justice, School Safety, Violence Prevention, School Resource Officer

International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum, Volume 20, Issue 2, March 2014, pp.11-19. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 26, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 651.304KB)).

Dr. Susan Mateer

Police Officer, School Resource Officer, Patrol, Investigations, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

The presenter, Susan Mateer, a 25-year veteran police officer, has worked in restorative justice for more than twelve years and served as a school resource officer. She has recently completed her PhD at Colorado State University's School of Education in the area of peacemaking, school safety, and restorative practices. She is an adjunct professor at Colorado State University and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a content expert for CSU Global. She maintains an active role as a restorative justice volunteer, facilitator, instructor, and mediator.

Dr. Ellyn M. Dickmann

Associate Dean, College of Education and Professional Studies, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, USA

Dr. Ellyn Dickmann is the Associate Dean for the College of Education and Professional Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Prior to this position she was associate professor of educational leadership, renewal, and change at Colorado State University. She completed her Ph.D. at Colorado State University in 1999 with a focus on interdisciplinary studies and youth violence. Her dissertation examined the culture of police in schools. Dr. Dickmann is a recognized international speaker in the area of school resource officers and school safety.