CHICAGO - Parents in Chicago are coming together to promote peace and offer students a space to voice their perspectives. The focus is to help keep students safe and in school.
Parents are being trained in Restorative Justice. It focuses on starting a conversation to prevent future consequences.
"If you're going to teach a lesson, lessons are taught in school not in the street," Dexter Leggin said. He's the Chief Peace Keeper at Melody Elementary in West Garfield Park, and the first stop for students looking to express themselves or stop conflict.
"We talk to kids and kids at risk. When I say kids at risk, we try to help with the social and emotional needs of children. Either they are in trouble or not in trouble, we try to talk about a broad level of conversation. If they are in trouble, the peace center is made to replace harm," Leggin explained.
Leggin has been with the program for six years and says they are showing great improvements.
"Before they get suspended, they bring them to me. We try to work it out before it even happens. We're here to stop suspensions, so we are the first stage before they go to the disciplinary and the principal. Ninety percent of the time we can stop the suspension because if they are fighting or doing whatever we can work it out together," he said.
Peace Center has grown past a place for conflict solution, but into a place for conversation for students.
"It's not talking about bad stuff. It's trying to help the bad stuff become good," said Terrance Anderson, 8th grade.
"Coming to the peace center is where you have no drama and you can say what you want to say but just express you're feeling to a person that will listen to you and give your feedback on how they feel or what they have to say about it," Makiya Ousley said. "The people in the peace center are like family to you."
Working together to fund common ground and create a safer school and community.
"I love these children! I'm serious! It's going to make me cry. I love my neighborhood, I love these kids, I'm serious," Leggin said.
Leggin said his next goal is to create Jr. Peace Keepers with some of the young men and women you saw there to help promote peace.
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