BURK’S FALLS – Land of Lakes Senior Public School principal Todd Gribbon is taking his expertise in restorative justice to the national level.
Gribbon has been appointed to the founding Board of Directors of the Canadian Restorative Justice Board of Directors of the Canadian Restorative Justice Consortium.
“Restorative justice is a process by which you gather up the people who are responsible for conflict and work it out together,” said Gribbon.
Gribbon says he has been using a restorative justice method of discipline for a number of years surrounding issues including fighting or name-calling.
“When you start digging at the problem you get to the root of it,” he said. “The people that can solve the conflict is not really the person who is in authority, or the power base, it is more the people who have the relation – or have a broken relationship.”
He says it is about repairing the relationship and getting it to a more positive place.
This appointment will not take him away from the school. He will remain as principal at the school. It is voluntary.
The consortium is a brand new organization trying to knit together all the restorative justice packages and agencies in Canada supporting this philosophy or idea.
“We grew up in a society where people in authority have the right to make judgments and to punish others, and that is one way of doing it,” he said. “It flattens out that process where it becomes part of the community’s responsibility to help them in resolving the situation and voice is really important in the circle.”
Gribbon says both the victim and the offender get a chance to speak, and the solution on how to fix a situation is negotiated.
“Sean (Ruddy, who adopted the Restorative Justice philosophy at Almaguin Highlands Secondary School) and I are going to be doing some training on May 11 with some principals and vice-principals,” he said.
He says in his new role with the organization he will be working toward getting funding opportunities, such as grants, to develop conferences, enhance their website and educate on restorative justice practices.
“The Near North District School Board is very proud of Mr. Gribbon an his colleagues for their efforts to provide restorative justice practices to specific situations in a sensitive and meaningful way,” said Terry Blair, board superintendent of schools, in a recent press release.
Gribbon says the restorative justice sees that students have an opportunity to participate in the process.
“There is an assumption that if you go to the office it’s a bad thing,” he said. “We want to switch that to a place where going to the office is a resource. It is a place where conflicts are resolved with everybody.”
He says if conflicts aren’t resolved with everyone’s involvement, individuals can be stigmatized.
“If you don’t allow individuals to understand that this is not done to them, it’s not power over them and with them and they get a voice in it, then they understand that their shaming is washed away or reconciled by the people that are around them, their peers,” he said.
He says since restorative justice was implemented at West Ferris Secondary School, suspension rates declined 80 per cent in five years.
“The office was seen as a place where students could come for help rather than going to the office to get punished,” he said. “It’s a different look at a way of helping individuals behave in a proper way.”