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The 2012-2013 school year found Los Alamos Middle School implementing the beginning stages of a program called Restorative Justice.
The Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, with help from Los Alamos County. funded the work with training in 2005, led by the Los Alamos Community Health Council.
The cases were criminal in nature and generally referred by the Juvenile Probation Officer.
According to JJAB Coordinator Ellen Ben-Naim, “LAMS is implementing a Restorative Justice program to address conflicts before they escalate into situations involving criminal offenses,” she said. “We felt like the program would be more successful if several members of the LAMS staff were trained in Restorative Justice.”
The program is designed to handle conflict by allowing everyone in the room to be heard, while allowing the offender to admit responsibility, accept group sanctions and end by regaining a place in the community.
This month, training was designed not just for those interested in the handling issues locally, but to those interested in the CYFD offering from across the state.
Approximately 45 attendees representing Silver City, Lordsburg, Raton, Luna, Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Rio Arriba and Taos attended the daylong event.
Facilitator Rose Gordon has 13 years of experience facilitating training sessions nationally and internationally, with experience in a variety of populations, including working with monks and programs involving the holocaust.
Gordon, has worked facilitating restorative justice circles for the Taos County Juvenile Justice Board for more than eight years.
Naomi Unger and Sherri Bublitz were two of a number of LAMS staff to attend the JJAB training.
“As a teacher, I think the format for restorative justice has many applications — active listening, documenting strengths, developing a plan,” Unger said. “Since conflict exists among students, I found the techniques I learned beneficial.”
Bublitz, a Community Assets Award winner said, “There are several ways I can see the principles of Restorative Justice being implemented as a teacher. The ice breaker games will be helpful not only for their intended purpose, but as nice ‘break,’ type activities when stress levels are higher than normal in class. Additionally, the foundational principles will work well even without a formal circle. When two students have a disagreement or a strong difference of opinion.”
Los Alamos Middle School Prinicpal Rex Kilburn believes his newly trained staff will be able to assist other sites throughout the district.
“I was very glad to see some of my staff interested in this training,” Kilburn said. “I believe in the Restorative Justice process and know that it has a place in the middle school for resolving issues. Based on its use this year, I say that the process is very effective and has provided long-lasting results.”
You can learn more about JJAB programs by visiting their website at losalamosjjab.com.