Sentencing Circles open with a discussion of the student’s strengths. These provide the Circle the basis for determining the most appropriate sanctions for the student charged. By “appropriate” we mean how the student may best give back to his or her community–as a means of repairing the damage they may have caused.
For example if he or she identifies academics as their strength, the team may lean toward assigning a writing task, an essay or letter of apology. If he or she identifies leadership as a particular bent, then the Circle may ask them to serve on others’ Circles wherein their leadership ability may best be of use.
Or, let’s say the student is superior at working with their hands. The Circle might then recommend community service experiences that require manual dexterity. The Circle may also get creative with sanctions. A student adept at art may be asked to create a mural, say, for a children’s hospital room–or a hospital’s halls. If athletics are a strength, the Circle may assign the respondent to hours working with youth sports teams.
When sanctions require the respondent’s application of their unique abilities, the respondent will invest more deeply in the purpose of fulfilling those sanctions. The more enduring lesson is that their skills and attributes are best expressed when applied to the service of others. Our gifts become ours when given away for the benefit of the community.