What is a Restorative Circle?

Brooke Jimenez, Journalist

Being a senior at IHS I have seen many changes throughout my high school career. One big change that happened at IHS this year was the introduction of restorative circles. Most students at IHS say that they are still unaware of what restorative circles are. Ms. Collura is a fairly new assistant principal to our high school and this fall she introduced restorative circles to students and teachers. “I aim to help more students and faculty understand and gain interest in attending restorative circles” she said. Mrs. Collura defines restorative circles as “a concept of restorative justice. Restorative circles should be used to build community as a way to communicate.” She also added that restorative circles provide “a way to create a safe space and for people to be brave and  connect with one another and to build community.”

Restorative was definitely a new word for me and probably many others. I had heard from a few students that they have not attended restorative circles simply because they didn’t know what they were. With more exposure and advertising of restorative circles, their attendance could significantly increase. Ms. Collura said that “At the first circle, there were about 25-30 students and staff members that attended.” However, since then “around 10 people, students, and staff combined” typically show up. 

Another reason some students may be hesitant to show up to restorative circle meetings is because they don’t know which topics are discussed. Every meeting has a different topic and students are not obligated to speak if they don’t want to. At each restorative circle a “talking piece” is handed around the circle. When you are in possession of the piece, you are able to speak, as to prevent people from talking over one another. I learned from our interview that if you don’t wish to share a thought or opinion Ms. Collura said that  “when the talking piece gets to you, you can just pass because just listening is participating.”  

Additionally since the concept of restorative circles is so new to our school it makes students and teachers wonder where the idea to implement them at IHS came from. Ms. Collura said the “opportunity came to us from Suffolk University; they provide training and as soon as I went to  the first day of that training I was hooked.” She also compares it to “circle time” that everyone has experienced in elementary school. It’s crazy to think that you have been to a restorative circle without even knowing it!

Some students worry about attending these sessions in fear of other students finding out they attended. I was assured that students’ names are confidential. Some students don’t want to be the only person their age there too; it can be comforting to have people within the same grade there. Nobody wants to be the one senior in a group of all freshmen or the one freshman in a circle of seniors. Ms. Collura said that “It’s a pretty good mix. At the first one it was more underclassman but there were some upperclassmen that came.” All students from all grades are accepted into the circles and are not obligated to attend every meeting. 

The more education students have about restorative circles the more interest faculty is hoping to get. Restorative circles are a space for students to share how they feel and be a part of change at IHS. The circles allow for students’ voices to be heard while also keeping their identity confidential. Ms. Collura hopes to see you all there!