By Julia Steiny
Naturally, Faina Davis, a lawyer and head of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), would have a happy-ish story about what happens when troubled kids connect with adults who practice Restorative Justice. Far more often, kids misbehave, get punished, misbehave, get punished, in an endlessly destructive cycle. But Restoration works to interrupt this cycle by solving whatever was driving the misbehavior in the first place.
An 11th grader, whom Davis calls Cameron, transferred into a Restorative Oakland high school. He’d already become, as she put it, one of those “scary-dude kids” with saggy pants, a black hoodie and a horrible attitude. Such charmers come to her through the Oakland’s schools, which have become demonstration sites for restorative justice.
On his first day at the new school, Cameron met with the school’s Director. Cameron probably expected, per usual, to get yelled at, berated, and threatened with dire consequences for any more misdeeds. Instead, this Restorative Director put aside the thick folder of records of Cameron’s academic failures, suspensions and arrests. Start fresh. Cameron couldn’t suddenly become an angel. But together he and the Director would deal with the obstacles in the way of building a brighter, healthier path for this angry adolescent.