Working together to bring Restorative Practices to Bexar County Schools
Founded by the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (AIT-SCM) works to preserve and protect Indigenous cultures and traditions. One of those traditions that has gained popularity in recent years is restorative practices which are deeply rooted in healing — healing of an individual, healing in relationships and healing in communities.
Unlike punitive means of punishment that disproportionately impact students of color, restorative practices works to foster support and care in school communities. A long time community partner, AIT-SCM works directly with My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio — an UP Partnership network that works on removing systemic barriers to safety, education and career success for boys and young men of color — to deliver Community Building Circles to school districts such as Judson ISD and San Antonio ISD.
As AIT-SCM’s former Director of Development Karla Aguilar explains, “while the language of restorative justice is contemporary, the foundation of it is always seeking restoration and renewal to find the well-being of community.”
The AIT-SCM Institute includes restorative justice experts to train and advise community members in restorative justice programming, training and implementation. They teach the complicated process that starts with pain and anger, to address the root causes of the problem. Restorative justice validates lived trauma, while allowing young people to have a voice in the process. They provide tools to resolve conflicts in a positive manner.
An example of this vital work can be seen in AIT-SCM’s strong relationship with Harlandale Alternative Center, a school located within Harlandale ISD which works with opportunity youth to instill confidence and self-worth to ensure students are quality learners and contributing members of society. AIT-SCM provides continued support to the students in the Center as they work to return to their home campuses. The work seeks to lower the rate that students will reoffend when they return to their home campus, which can reduce the possibility of dropping out, disconnection and/or prison. This partnership came about through Harlandale Alternative Center’s principal Andrew Dominguez reaching out to the AIT-SCM directly.
AIT-SCM also works with students outside of the classroom through The Solution Project, which was established with the help of young people who sought to continue their connection with the organization through ongoing mentorship and support systems. Based on the knowledge that there are many problems in our communities, The Solution Project gives young people a voice in the potential solutions to those ongoing issues.
“[Restorative Justice] is vital because the poorest school districts in San Antonio are set up to be the ones that hemorrhage young people into the criminal justice system because they are so drastically under-sourced,” Aguilar said. “Restorative justice is cost-effective, viable solution that improves the lives of all those on campus and gives families the tools to be able to unpack the pain they live in on a regular basis.”
The work that AIT-SCM does is heavily rooted in the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, an action-focused strategic plan that brings together cross-sector community partners who are invested in reaching the plan’s collective North Star goal – to increase the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential programs to 70% by 2030. In Bexar County, the number is currently around 50%. The work that AIT-SCM aligns with the healing equity pillar, which is one of the three Future Ready equity pillars alongside access and voice – the must HAVEs for equity among Bexar County’s young people.
If your organization is ready to join in on the Future Ready movement or the Restorative Practices Collaborative, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more information on how you can become a Future Ready partner or donate to the work here.You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media.
To learn more about AIT-SCM and support the work they are doing, you can visit www.aitscm.org.