Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline
Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline offers teachers, parents, students, and schools, a way to cultivate virtue while repairing harm from bullying and other hurtful behaviors.
"A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1803).
The Hastings Catholic Schools Unity Board adopted Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline during the 2013-2014 school year. Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline is built on the dignity of the human person. By fostering personal understanding and practice of character through timeworn teaching on virtue, students, parents, and teachers more fully experience personal growth, and in turn, integrate kindness into our interactions with those around us. The program offers teachers, parents, students, and schools a way to cultivate virtue while repairing harm from hurtful behaviors.
Implementation of VBRD began during the 2014-2015 school year at both St. Michael and St. Cecilia Schools. The faculties in both buildings learned about virtues, the circle process, and restorative discipline practices. Students in grades K-8 learned about the circle process, or class meetings, during the introductory year. Currently, elementary students participate in circles once a month, and middle and high school students participate in circles throughout the year.
Faculty and students in grades K-12 focused on the virtue of integrity during the 2015-2016 school year; honor was selected for the 2016-2017 year. The virtue of prudence was selected for the 2017-2018 school year. Prudence, one of the four cardinal virtues, is the virtue that allows us to judge correctly what is right and what is wrong in any given situation.
This school year Pure of Heart was selected. Psalm 51:12 reads, "A pure heart create in me, O God, and renew within me a steadfast spirit." A pure heart is a heart that beats in sync with the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ. It is clean from all that does not belong in our hearts, namely sin. A pure heart helps us to think as we ought, act as we ought, and speak as we ought. A pure heart is a heart that seeks virtue.
Four annual events have been incorporated into the school year to allow for contact between St. Michael and St. Cecilia students with the focus on virtue development.
- The first event is held on the Feast of St. Michael on September 29. Junior and senior students travel to St. Michael's School to attend Mass with the elementary students and participate in a circle about honor.
- The second event occurs on the high school community service day in November. Sophomores meet with students in grades K-4. (5th graders are visiting St. Cecilia on this particular day.)
- Students in grades K-12 participate in a circle the Friday of Catholic Schools Week for the third activity. Students are assigned to groups that include both elementary and middle/high school students. The junior and senior leaders read a book that demonstrates a virtue and then lead a circle with questions pertaining to living out that particular virtue.
- The final activity takes place in April when the members of the senior class visit St. Michael's to share about their experiences as a Catholic school student.
These annual events have helped increase the connection between the two schools and assisted with the development of virtue in all students, regardless of their grade level.
Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, St. Michael's started a House System to expand VBRD at the elementary level. The entire student body, as well as faculty members, were randomly assigned to one of nine Houses - Saint Juan Diego, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Saint Peter, Saint Padre Pio, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Saint John Paul II, Saint Therese of Lisieux, and Saint Francis of Assisi. At monthly meetings, students participate in circles and study virtues and the lives of saints, all while building community.
Goals of Restorative Discipline:
- To understand the harm and develop empathy for both parties
- To listen and respond to the needs of both parties
- To encourage accountability and responsibility through personal reflection within a collaborative planning process
Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline has several premises that guide its approach:
- People make mistakes and need an opportunity to make up for the harm done and return to full acceptance in a community.
- Everyone in a restorative system must commit to being positive, which means dwelling on the positive rather than the negative.
- Virtue is the positive aspect of harm and needs to be taught and developed.
- Prayer must be a part of discipline in a Catholic environment.
Components for Prevention:
- Staff Development -- We are working to identify problems/refine the process.
- Class Meetings -- We are committed to helping students grow emotionally.
- Parent Discussions -- A way to build stronger families committed to the process.
- Building Community -- Expanding our efforts to build healthy relationships among adults.