Circles are a restorative justice practice that give people in community an opportunity to share their experiences in a safe space and gain understanding of themselves and others through respectful conversation.
Circles are designed and facilitated by a neutral party, called a Circle Keeper, who ensures that all voices are heard and that discussions are respectful and stay on-track.
Each week began with a shared meal and an opportunity to get to know one another. IPA and DCJ staff facilitated introductions and discussed what to expect during the evening.
After dinner, the attendees split into two groups: students who participated in SoDP and the people who support them. Each group participated in a Circle that was designed to fit each group's needs and facilitated by neutral Circle Keepers.
At the end of each Circle, the two groups were brought back together. Each person was offered a small gift as a thank you for their participation and asked to complete an evaluation about their experience.
Circle Keepers prompted the students to think about how their experiences with school discipline affected their views of themselves, their relationships with others, and their goals for the future. The questions helped students identify personal strengths, recognize their emotions, and envision their ideal future.
Throughout the Circles, students expressed feeling grateful being able to share their side of the story and to know they are not alone in their experience.
In the Family Circles, which included the parents, grandparents, mentors, siblings, and friends who supported the students, Circle Keepers designed questions to help reflect on their experience with school discipline, their strengths and concerns, and their hopes for their student’s future.