Last year, teacher and activist Jesse Hagopian was pepper sprayed by a nervous police officer without cause. The incident was caught on video and quickly went viral:
Hagopian is currently suing the city but has not let up in his fight for restorative justice. He spoke with Seattle Weekly News about his experiences:
SW: How have you been fighting the good fight since being pepper-sprayed last year?
Hagopian: Garfield [High School] began working with some different trainers on [restorative justice practices], and we’re now this year working on peace circles with the staff so they can really gain a strong understanding of the power of being able to solve problems collectively. It is my hope that we can roll out a full pilot of restorative justice in the coming years, and try to move away from zero tolerance—to make restorative justice more than just a box to check.
What would that look like?
We want to sever the school-to-prison pipeline by putting [in] restorative practices, which is bringing together the person that’s been injured and the person who’s been accused and actually make them do something much harder than stay home from school: make them face their problem with mentors and peers. Have them work through the issue, have them set goals, have them collectively figure out what a just resolution would be.
That’s a much harder practice, but it demonstrates to our kids that our school actually cares about you. Not just when you’re scoring well on a test, not just when you’re doing well in school, but when you’ve made a mistake, when you’re down, when nobody else cares about you or people are angry at you—we care about you enough to help you solve this problem. That’s how we transform student lives and create better people through education.