Punishment at Harwood, a Joke that Never Ceases to Fall Flat

Nicholous Lord, Student Reporter

Students seem to cumulatively agree that the way Harwood handles punishment (no matter the reason) is ill-advised, unnecessary, inadequate, and quite frankly ridiculous. If you are aware of the behavior that reverberates throughout the hallways of this school, then you must also be aware of two other simple facts. One, punishment for more serious offenses is lackluster at best (and calling it that is being generous), and two, all punishments no matter the offense are met with far too passive tactics in order to deal with them.

A prime example of one of these attempts at retribution, and the one I will be focusing on most is restorative dialogues. If you don’t know what a restorative dialogue is, the offender sits in a room with the offended group/party, and they attempt to talk out the problem. They all sit in a circle and go around answering a few questions addressing what the offender did, how affected the victims, why did the offender did it, and what they can do to make it better and/or work on improving in the future. Afterwards the student responsible is (in my experience) not held accountable any further.

According to Skylar Bradley, Harwood Union’s newly named Restorative Community Coordinator, “The point of having that dialogue and getting that message across of what’s the underlying issue is how we can move to fix the problem moving forward.” However these attempts at a fix to the problem seem to be more of a hindrance than a solution.

During an interview with sophomore who has undergone a restorative dialogue during their time at harwood,  “Restorative dialogues do absolutely nothing, if anything. they need to actually punish kids or it’s not gonna fix the problem.”

This student experienced a restorative dialogue as a result of lashing out physically at a member of the student body who had been irritating them for an entire school year. After a dialogue with said student the sophomore fellt like  “basically nothing changed at all” and “if the victim feels like they have to resort to violence to fix the problem then they should know they’re not handling these situations properly.”

Another student underwent a restorative dialogue for a well known incident that “seemed extremely small when I did it, but when they found out it was me the reaction was ginormus.”

This student described his experience as “It seemed like the students didn’t really care as much. It was as if the teacher leading the discussion cared a whole lot more about the way that those students felt then they did themselves.”

After a few more words this student said “I wouldn’t do it again, not because the dialogue worked, but because it was an extremely uncomfortable situation for me.”

When all of this is taken into consideration it becomes blatantly obvious that restorative dialogues work better as an idea than as an action. The heart of the school is in the right place, but they seem to be unaware that the current system of punishment is not practical and for the most part is ineffective.

As the school seems to be creating an environment where restorative dialogues are used as a common practice, ignoring the fact that they seem to be ineffective, their takes on punishment and retribution for bad behavior is nothing more than a misguided attempt at a poor joke. It leaves nothing in its wake, except for the absence of laughter.