South St. Paul Schools, Peace Guides

South St. Paul Restorative Justice provides two part-time Peace Guides in the elementary schools; Kaposia Educational Center and Lincoln Center.

The Peace Guides work three hours per day during the lunch/recess time. In September of each year they meet and greet new students. Space is provided within each school for students to meet with them near the cafeteria to discuss situations.

Students are referred by administration, teachers, lunchroom supervisors and in some cases by students themselves. Peace Guides assist students, those harmed and those causing the harm, to work together to make things right.  The Peace Guide listens to all sides and facilitates discussion about ways to resolve differences.  Ways of healing the harm are explored, methods of apology are discussed and, when appropriate, implemented.

Bullying/fighting interventions are provided as are Circles of support.  Academic learning improves when students work together to resolve conflicts.


Simple Methodology

1.  Why are you here?
2.  What happened?
3.  Each person tells their side of the story.
4.  What have you learned?
5.  What would you do differently?
6.  What needs to happen to fix it?

Letter to the Restorative Justice Council
August 5, 2010

I owe a debt of gratitude to JoAnn Ward. I had the honor to work with the South St. Paul School District and South St. Paul Restorative Justice from 1998-2001 when the school district had funds to implement and evaluate restorative measures in their schools. The outcomes were great—decrease in behavior referrals, suspensions, increase in positive school climate. The efforts of the district showed to the world that restorative measures was a promising practice, that is could make a difference in creating a peaceful school. The final report on the grant was sent to lots of folks and I still see today the South St. Paul story held up as evidence.

But funds went away, and staff left, and I thought, well that is the last of that great experiment. But the Council responded: they figured how to keep RJ in the school. You could say that they invented the Restorative Justice Guide. JoAnn’s dogged determination to have the community help the school, with and often without funds, gave me hope that even as the school faculty and fortunes changed, the belief that children could resolve their own problems, with the care of adults, would not disappear, as so many grant funded initiatives do. I could count on referring her to our international guests, and she would be a gracious host. She was ready with an answer or suggestion to a fledgling RJ practitioner. She has served her community well.

I was once told by a judge that I was an officer of the state. Well, as an officer of the state, and on behalf of the citizens of Minnesota, I want to thank JoAnn for her help for all the children of the state. Her work has made a difference.

Nancy Riestenberg
Prevention Specialist
Minnesota Department of Education
1500 West Highway 36
Roseville, MN 55113