A new disciplinary system is taking rise at NRHS. The Restorative Justice Committee, made up of primarily students and only a few staff members and spearheaded by Mr. Cofran and Ms. Dore, welcomes a diverse array of students from class presidents to Mr. Ulrich’s weekly visitors. With European origins dating back to 1066, Restorative Justice (RJ) is becoming more and more prominent in schools, and even community policing practices. In places like Barren County, Wisconsin, there was a 49% decrease in juvenile offenses after 5 years. In the past months, NRHS’ committee has established a very structured protocol that Ms. Dore says should be up and handling cases by the end of October. The main focus of RJ is to get students to take ownership and accountability for their actions, as well as allow them a chance to learn and grow from the experience.
Mr. Ulrich, Vice Principal, describes the need for this system with passion. “Giving a consequence is a sort of failure,” he explains, and Ms. Dore also expressed her concern with the discipline-oriented justice system at Newfound. As the primary head of discipline in the high school, Mr. Ulrich believes that, “The greatest thing that could happen to this school is putting me out of a job,” referring to the fact that RJ is a much better alternative to what Mr. Ulrich has in his tool belt of punishments: ISS, OSS, and Teacher Detention, as these punishments often lead to recidivation and essentially solve nothing. Mr. Ulrich has had previous experience with Restorative Justice. At UNH Law, he observed a panel of teens handle minor infractions effectively. He witnessed offenders become a part of the jury, and even move on to become defendants. This sort of transition and maturity is exactly what Restorative Justice aims to motivate.
The administration is extremely optimistic about this new system and hopes that NRHS can be, essentially, a student-disciplined school. Student participation is strongly encouraged to promote NRHS’ student voice culture. Anyone who would like to know more or become involved should see Ms. Dore in the guidance office, or speak with Mr. Cofran.