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Restorative Justice at Work: Reducing Violence at Chicago’s Fenger High School

“The Fenger case shows that restorative justice practices can be real, tangible vehicles for making city schools better by offering a pathway to peace for students willing to learn. It’s our job to remember there are students all over urban America waiting for their chance to play a bigger role in their surroundings.”

Clinical/community psychologist Elena Quintana, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Institute of Public Safety & Social Justice (IPSSJ) at the Adler School of Professional Psychology, and Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, IPSSJ Justice Fellow, recently took part in a discussion about restorative justice on WBEZ-FM 91.5’s “The Afternoon Shift.

Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, Justice Fellow, Adler School Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice

Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, Justice Fellow, Adler School Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice

Lugalia-Hollon’s main point during the program was: “We should try to not get to the point where we depend completely on the police to address violence.  How people act is very connected to what resources are available to them, in their neighborhood and in their city.  We should use resources to lift communities up.”

An example of the resources that Lugalia-Hollon advocates for can be found in the case of Fenger High School in Chicago’s Roseland community.  In response to ongoing violence, the school has undergone a serious transformation and taken new approaches to address the issue.

Since implementing these new approaches, student misconducts have dropped more than 60 percent. While student demographics have stayed basically the same, numerous organizations have entered the scene to help, including culture and climate specialists like Robert Spicer, who joined the conversation with Quintana and Lugalia-Hollon on “The Afternoon Shift.”

As Spicer described, and as Lugalia-Hollon examined in his recent Next City article“Learning Peace is Possible in Chicago Schools”: There has been a distinct philosophical shift within Fenger, one that Spicer sees as the key to the school’s successful transformation.

Fenger has moved almost completely to a restorative justice paradigm. School safety is now pursued and achieved in ways that were nonexistent in 2009. Violence is prevented through peacemaking circles, student conflicts are resolved by peer jurors, victims and offenders now sit down together after an incident, and families are brought in to join restorative conferences about the underlying causes of student misbehavior.

During the WBEZ discussion, Spicer made note of the power of having those in conflict sit down and have a conversation to understand each other and resolve a conflict, and the peaceful resolution ripple affect that he has seen in taking a restorative justice approach.

Lugalia-Hollon added, “The Fenger case shows that restorative justice practices can be real, tangible vehicles for making city schools better by offering a pathway to peace for students willing to learn. It’s our job to remember there are students all over urban America waiting for their chance to play a bigger role in their surroundings.”

Our thanks go to WBEZ and “Afternoon Shift” host Rick Kogan for hosting the thoughtful discussion with the group, also including Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Kathy Bankhead who has spearheaded restorative justice measures through her office.

Click here to listen to the full conversation.

4 thoughts on “Restorative Justice at Work: Reducing Violence at Chicago’s Fenger High School

  1. Pingback: Reason & Existenz

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