How to Create Peace

Happily, many schools now understand that punishment is ineffective in helping students resolve fights and slights in the schoolyard and classroom. Slowly, schools are turning to “restorative practices,” a term popularized by the International Institute of Restorative Practices (IIRP).

When conflicts between students occur, there is recognition that participants may share victim and offender roles, but generally not in equal proportions. Punitive suspensions of students from school are outdated and go against what child advocates know about learning “lessons” to handle future interactions.

Some schools have a “Peace Room.” Secondary schools may train “peer juries” that replace the traditional discipline of sending students to the principal for punishment. Still others create “Peace Circles.” Regardless of the restorative practice, adult facilitators offer neutrality, respect, and confidentiality. These peaceful practices acknowledge a damaged relationship, identify the harm(s) caused by specific behaviors, and may include community participants who also endured the harm in some way.

Participants are asked questions:

What happened?                      Who was harmed by your actions?                         What can be done to repair that harm?                                      What can be done to prevent a recurrence of the harm-producing behavior?

If possible, pre-conferences with each participant help to access strong emotions. It is wise to have two facilitators. The second facilitator or peer guide is trained to focus on non-verbal behaviors that otherwise might be overlooked.

Many years before I took training offered by IIRP, I was employed by a large high school in their Behavioral Disorders program. My school psychologist job was to handle student/student and student/teacher conflicts. There were lots of conflicts. I ditched suspensions, although it was not a popular move with some teachers who preferred sending a student “away” for a period of time.

My problem-solving approach had similarities to current Peace Circles. Any teacher or student could fill out a paper request for a Problem-Solving Conference (PSC). I asked students to face their teacher (or another student) when the two of them were in conflict. With practice, students learned to de-escalate quickly, sometimes earlier than their teachers! Eventually I added PSC+ forms (on red paper) for student/teacher partners to meet and acknowledge positive behavior changes.

See my Pearls-of-Peace blog (“Restorative Justice Peace,” 9-29-21). I suggest that parents and employers lead with restorative justice. My PSC model led to student/parent meet-ups when underlying conflicts in school had their roots in family interactions. Family participants wrote contracts for improved behavior on both sides of the rocky battles.  

In current warring times, we need people to create peace without the nasty scars of lost lives. It is ironic that many wars end with conflicting sides sitting at a table to negotiate belated problem-solving or peace “settlements.”

A problem-solving takeaway is to leave each opposing participant with HOPE for a better day. What do we HOPE to restore in restorative practices? Peace.  

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

60. When have you used restorative practices to resolve a conflict?

61. Who might you coach to use restorative practices?                                               

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


  1. Thank you Jan, for your wisdom! MOFP hopes to engage Stephen Jackson at the OPPL for a Mothers Day Peace Circles event! Let us trust he can find an afternoon to host this gathering, actually planned before the pandemic!

    Soon, love, Mary Rose and Mothers and Others For Peace

    Sent from my iPhone



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