Young people across Nova Scotia are learning new ways to manage relationships and conflict by being encouraged to think about how they, and their actions, affect others. Education Minister Ramona Jennex and Ministerial Assistant for Youth Mat Whynott, on behalf of Justice Minister Ross Landry, announced the expansion of restorative approaches in schools, October 24, at Sycamore Lane Elementary School in Lower Sackville. Nova Scotia will be the first Canadian jurisdiction to initiate a provincewide restorative approach. “School is a big part of our young people’s lives and what happens there can guide them on how to create healthy relationships, and deal with conflict in all other parts of their lives,” said Ms. Jennex. “Restorative approaches will also have a direct impact on bullying and other harmful behaviours, and will have a ripple effect into the home and community.” The approach helps students understand relationships and conflicts and gives them knowledge and skills to manage them effectively. Benefits include less conflict in schools, more time for teachers to teach, better school morale and a stronger student connection to their school. “The schools that have used this approach have noticed a huge drop in office referrals and suspensions,” said Mr. Whynott. “Students have become more respectful of others and the schools have noticed a calming effect.” It uses a number of methods, including classroom circles where students discuss the impacts of behaviour or share information about themselves that helps develop relationship with classmates. Students can also largely avoid the stigma of being “sent to the office” or being suspended. Instead, they deal with the behaviour with their fellow students and teachers. “I was unsure about restorative approaches at first, but now I see many benefits,” said Eva Clement, a Grade 4 teacher at Sycamore Lane. “My students are now finding their voice. They are starting to acknowledge each other and the issues they may have to deal with in their daily lives at school, home and their community. It’s very much a learning experience for all of us.” A provincewide program will be developed based on the 27 schools that already use some form of restorative approach. A restorative approach in schools supports the province’s crime prevention efforts. The province invests in programs that support crime prevention and community safety, including the Lighthouses Program, Additional Officer Program, and mental health and domestic violence courts. A restorative approach in schools also supports Kids and Learning First, the province’s plan to help every student succeed. To learn more about restorative approaches in school, visit www.ednet.ns.ca or www.novascotia.ca/just.