Building Trust Through Restorative Practices

Updated: Aug 18

By nature, all humans have certain basic needs - like food, water, clothing, and shelter. But we also need strong and meaningful relationships to grow and succeed in life. Communities In Schools (CIS) helps to meet the needs of all students in schools. When students lack basic needs, those can usually be easily addressed with connections to outside resources. However, building meaningful relationships is a much longer process that involves trust, social-emotional learning, and conflict resolution skills. That is at the heart of Restorative Practices.


During the months of December and January, CIS partnered with the administration at William Allen High School to facilitate a two-part Restorative Practices student leadership group. Under the guidance of CIS Restorative Practices Coach Lynne Woodard, 40 students joined together to share feelings, strengthen social capital and equity, and build a sense of community within the school.


A classroom where the desks are set up in a circle

During the workshops, students were encouraged to participate in a Restorative Circle; where they would gather in a large circle to participate in a group discussion. These circles build relationships by motivating individuals to express feelings and share personal experiences in a safe environment where every individual is equally valued and respected. The circles were first modeled by Woodard but then became student-led in later meetings.


During these circles, students would be given a check-in question to break the ice. They also established norms or group rules so that everyone felt comfortable sharing. Once students felt comfortable they were given a specific quote by a famous historical figure. The quotes had a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) focus in an effort to have multiple viewpoints during the feedback and discussion. The quotes are meant to be thought-provoking and push the boundaries of their minds while having a safe space to share their feelings. The students were able to choose quotes from Maya Angelou, Sonia Sotomayor, Muhammad Ali, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and John Lewis, to name a few.

A Presentation being shown on a projector

Students were asked to share their viewpoints and how each quote resonated with them. They were asked to write down how they may act differently as a result of hearing different viewpoints in their group discussion.


"Students are not used to looking each other in the face nowadays," said Woodard. "This was their first time participating in circles and they did amazing. Allen High School plans to have more of these types of events in the future as a result of the overwhelming success of the first two meetings."


Communities In Schools is committed to the “Five Basics” developed by our founder, Bill Milliken. The Five Basics are a set of essentials that every child needs and deserves. They are:


  1. A one-on-one relationship with a caring adult.

  2. A safe place to learn and grow.

  3. A healthy start and a healthy future.

  4. A marketable skill to use upon graduation.

  5. A chance to give back to peers and community.

Restorative Practices is able to key in on two of the Five Basics; a safe place to learn and grow and a chance to give back to peers and community. With the implementation of Restorative Practices, students will begin to build trust with their peers and their school community. The hope is that over time, attendance, in-school behaviors, and academics all improve because students will value themselves and each other more because of their improved relationships.


CIS is implementing Restorative Practice techniques across the sites that they serve throughout the Lehigh Valley and Berks County.

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