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Cloquet Alternative Ed Program Hosts Restorative Practice Event

Updated: September 12, 2018 07:33 PM

CLOQUET- The Cloquet Area Alternative Education Program started the school year with a restorative practice kick-off day Wednesday.

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The Cloquet Area Alternative Education Program is part of the Cloquet Area Alternative Middle School and High School. The schools are known for using unique communication tactics for problem solving.

"We did away with detentions and suspensions. We do problem solving sessions instead. Using restorative practice conferences, conversations, and circles,” Angela Garbett, a junior high teacher for the Cloquet Area Alternative Education Program, said.

The program has been successful in building healthy relationships with students and staff members.

"We resolve it then and there and we talk about it. We understand the problem and try to find a solution,” Kyan Mckenna, an 11th grader from the program, said.

"A talking piece is handed around and each person when they have the talking piece, they’re the only ones that can speak. You can talk about how did this incident affect you, how did it make you feel,” Erik Blesener, a Cloquet Police school resource officer, said.

The restorative practice kick off day introduced students to the method through several group activities like enjoying coffee and donuts with local authorities.

"I think by getting to know officers, they’re seeing that these are just normal people. They’re moms, they’re dads, and they’re approachable and somebody that kids don’t have to be afraid of,” Blesener said.

"We like to build relationships, do community things, and act as a whole group instead of being separate,” Garbett said.

Staff and students gathered in a big circle to partake in a spiritual smudging to eliminate negative spirits and energy, followed by a drumming ceremony.

"We have a big Native American population so Fond du Lac we incorporate them within our school,” Garbett said.

A talking piece was passed around where everyone shared their positive experience in the schools restorative program.

Several students described the program as “life changing”, “powerful”, and “encouraging.”

"I think that a lot more schools should use the restorative practices. It does help resolve conflict easier than expelling or punishing,” Mckenna said.

The circle continued with a group meditation and open dialogue between students and staff.

The practice is something the Cloquet program hopes more and more schools use in the near future.

“I think as other schools learn about the restorative process and how it works and have some exposure to it, It’s pretty hard to see something like that in action and not realize that it’s definitely a great tool,” Blesener said.

The school was recognized for using the practice with a School of the Year award by the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs.

Copyright 2018 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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