Joe has been the victim of two separate violent anti-gay hate crimes and what began as a personal healing response to the trauma, he has transformed into professional involvement in the field of community and restorative justice. Since 2010, Joe has actively helped schools implement peer mediation programs and school-wide restorative practices. As a private consultant beginning in 2015, Joe has designed a trauma-informed approach of restorative practices and infused this model in schools.
What if we told you that implementing trauma-informed and restorative justice practices in schools could transform the lives of students, educators, and entire communities? Join us in this eye-opening episode as we uncover the cultural and systemic implications of these critical practices. We discuss the diffusion model of innovators, early adapters, early majority, late majority, and laggards, and explore how restorative justice can thrive in the context of applied educational neuroscience.
Together, we tackle the challenges of prioritizing education and supporting educators in a world where children are often not the focus of legislation and policy. We reveal the progress of trauma-informed and restorative justice programs in teacher preparation programs and share insights on the potential for positive change when educators lead the way. Hear a powerful personal story of survival and perseverance, and learn the invaluable lesson of grace and humanizing others in the context of restorative justice and trauma-informed practices. Don't miss this thought-provoking conversation that will leave you inspired to make a lasting impact on the lives of your students and beyond.
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And so which kid do you want to see? The hurting kid that just acted out? or the bad kid that did something you shouldn't? The rule breaker? or the kid that's struggling? And, unfortunately, even some of the most restorative folks I know. They're not showing up. They're not showing up like those Jane teachers that say we're going to take that kid to the side of the room and tell you I love you.David:
I think that's like a good segue into the broader scale implementation, because it is the culture or the system under which we're operating in that doesn't allow us to zoom out and think about that, because, like, oh, end of the class period, i've got to get through this content, or else, so it's easier to just send this kid out, right? Or like, hey, we only have half an hour to do this circle, we can't get to the resolution by the end of the circle. Right, like you know what's going on in, you know giving grace for people's situations. But you know, we do have to set this long term commitment to like, in some instances, working outside of, like the systems and structures as they exist. Right, because they're not necessarily conducive to seeing each other as human Yeah, seeing ourselves as human. Right, and school leaders, right, have an amazing ability to change those systems. Right, allocate time for these things very intentionally. Right, what we talked earlier about. Like you know what are the things that you need to proactively do to build those relationships where they exist, create the conditions where these relations can thrive, where people will, you know, have the resources, not just like time, financial, like, yeah, do you have a calm corner? But like the interpersonal resources, right, the tools within themselves for regulation to be able to navigate conflict and harm in those moments. And it's not a hit it and quit it, training Like, hey, a half hour hour, two hours of trauma, informed trauma, insensitive or restorative justice. You know it is, it is a year's long commitment And I think like it's helpful to frame that when people in school specifically think about like, oh, it's not just this year implementation, but you know people say like, oh, it's a marathon out of spring. Marathons have ends 26.2 miles. Right, i've done it, i've been there. But this work is ongoing and in the scope of, you know, the last 50 years, the next 50 years. Before we got on, i think we talked about like this diffusion model of like innovators, early adapters, early majority, late majority, laggards, like where do you think we are in this trajectory of? I think, like restorative justice, trauma informs, and like, maybe even like the intersection of the two.Joe:
Yeah, that's such an amazing question because I, honestly, even though I know that model really well, i talk about it on time And you know, i first learned about that model from Simon Sinnex TED Talk on The Power of Why, and so I love that model like, but I guess at this point in time I'll give us a little more credit than I think it's. I don't think it's that linear, right. It's not that we're like right now we're at the innovator stage or the early adopter stage. We have all of that going on, right. And so what? there was an article in the New York Post yesterday. David Force again slamming restorative practice is, as you know, the quote unquote hug a thug, which I hate that term, but I hear it. How often do we hear that term popping up That you know we're just going to give kids hugs in a conversation and that's accountability. Well, actually one sometimes. That is accountability.David:
What was the conversation?Joe:
There's nothing wrong with that There's nothing wrong with that. As long as everybody walking away feels like justice just happened, then a hug is awesome. So we have our laggards out there. And remember, in that model there are two kinds of laggards. Right There are situational and persistent, and your persistent ones aren't coming on board with you. These are the same people that are at the school board meeting protesting restorative practices, critical race theory and equity work being done in schools. They're not coming on board with you. They're going to keep on fighting, and those folks have been around for decades. But at the same time, we do have the early adopters that are taking restorative justice and trauma informed to the next level at every turn they can. I love those people because they show up to awesome conferences and tell us what they're doing and what they're learning, and then the rest of us get to be the early adopters for what those innovators are teaching us. And then you're always going to have your early majority, the people that you told this stuff to, and they just did it because they're like yes, this is a good idea, i'm on board. Then there's this group of people who's probably where the majority of us are living right now. Right, or what we call the late majority. These are the people that are going to come on board with you. They're going to get trauma informed and restorative. They just waiting to see how it rolls. They want to see how this turns out for everybody else before they invest their time into it. But I think my messaging for all of those folks would be like you can't outrun this right. This work is continuing on the path. That it is because of the science. This is applied educational neuroscience And restorative happens to be a really good fit in that neuroscience. Nathan Wallace is that his name, i think. He believes he's out of Australia Wrote a chapter in Mark Thorsborn's last book, getting More Out of Restorative Practices. I don't know if any of you have seen that book. It's a great book And of course, i'm a huge Mark Thorsborn fan, whose birthday was yesterday. So shout out to Mark Thorsborn, but also my editor and co-author on my book. We're at this stage where more of us are just waiting to take on the work because we want to see it's going to stick around, because educators are used to educational fads that come and go. Some have stuck around longer than they should like. Pbis Yeah, a whole other conversation And so many restorative folks who believe that restorative can be blended with PBIS which that's literally a whole other podcast that that thinking has got to go. Behaviorism has got to go. If we're really going to truly be trauma-informed, we've got to stop thinking in those terms of carrots and sticks But any idea that you could just reward kids and they'll behave the way that they want. That's neither equitable or healthy. But we're at that phase right. We got this late majority who are just waiting to come on board. They see it's a good idea, but they just want to roll it out before they invest. At the same time, we have our early adopters. We have our innovators who are taking this to new levels all the time. Go to any restorative justice conference, any trauma-informed schools conference, and you will watch those innovators giving us new tools at every step. They're the ones publishing the books. They're the ones doing the conferences. They are the James Moffitts, matthew Portels, kay Pranis. These are early adopters and innovators that have been leading the way for us. And then we do have our laggards that are going to fight us. We've got those laggards that if we listen to them and their concerns, they'll come on board and be our cheerleaders, big cheerleaders If we took the time to implement this work through the same lens. That is this work. You've got to listen to people that don't believe in you. You've got to listen to people that don't agree with you And you've got to take on their point of view for a minute to see if maybe their concerns are valid And could be addressed. Some people think that restorative justice is just letting people off the hook. That is a valid concern. You don't want people being left off the hook. I could totally empathize with that concern And I can address it. So if I listen to your concern and let you feel heard about it, will you then come on board when I address it? Good chance. And so that model is not so. I don't think we are at any one point in that diffusion model. I think we're at all those points. I think there's just different percentages of us that are coming on board, and the place we got to put our energy is that late majority, the people who want to come on board but are just waiting it out. Now we need to pull those people in close and get them on board faster. I have no idea how to do that, but I'm working on it.David:
I mean it's not all on you, right, There is. Yeah, no, totally There's lots of work to be shared across. So many of us who believe this work to be true and what this world needs. I'm hopeful in some ways, and some days it's like really hard. I know from listening to other conversations you have that we have people in, or speaking at least to people in the highest office in the land about you know how this work is so important and so vital, and I think about, like, while there are people like you and I, like the folks that you rattled off and so many others previous guests on this podcast as well right About like you know how we're pushing this work forward in so many ways in teacher education, this still isn't really really being taught, and so I think like there are two sides to the question and this poorly constructed as far as like an interview goes, but I'm wondering if you could speak to, like you know, the large scale application or implementation of this work, maybe at a federal level, and then, like you know what you hope for people who are coming into education and people who are teacher educators, teacher people who are teaching and like you know, you know you're totally right about our highest leadership.Joe:
Like we have Miguel Cardona, who I not only only call like one of my heroes in this work. I believe in him, He's done this work with me. Like, Miguel Cardona is not just our secretary of education who has some experiences with trauma and former story practices. Like I worked with Miguel Cardona for almost five years in his school district when he was the assistant superintendent to implement and and plan how we were going to do this work in his four secondary schools. In there, in public schools, I learned more about the politics of school systems and how to make change happen at a board of of education. How do you go to the board of education and make change And and how are the politics of all that work, which I have to admit, I'm not really good at politics, but but you know Dr Cardona was, And so I learned a ton. But to know that our, you know we have a secretary of education who is a former educator, a former classroom teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, commissioner of schools, who also believes in doing this work, Who also knows how to get stuff done, That makes me super, super optimistic. And so you know, I think on the big, the big scale, I can't totally figure out where we're going. I think many of our teacher prep programs are taking this on. That is happening, Absolutely happening. Eastern Mennonite University, Vermont Law School like you can go out there and get master's degrees in both trauma informed and both and restorative justice. And now Eastern Mennonite University is going to combine their trauma informed certificate and master's program with their restorative justice program so that you get one degree in both. And so I think we are going in this direction. And teacher prep programs I know that I I know only because people have told me that my book is being used in a few teacher prep programs to help leaders understand school culture in a new way. So I'm hopeful about all of that stuff. I really am probably more hopeful than I've ever been. At the same time, We're in a position right now where we are just seeing people leave. You know, we know that right after this sense, this pandemic, over 500,000 educators have left the field And they're claiming the reason why and that comes from a study by the NEA. You know, they're saying the reason is because teachers are just undervalued, overworked, treated poorly, expected to become therapists, counselors, moms, chefs, snack havens and be masters of escaping gun violence, Like how much more could we ask of these people and not even pay them enough. And so you know, with a double edged sword of how we get to go forward, Like it seems like we could make lots of change. We just aren't valuing. Again, we're not prioritizing this stuff. We should be prioritizing which are children. We just we love to say it that we're prioritizing children, but then I don't see the legislation and the policy that follows. I am hopeful Looking at what I see, our current Department of Education and I don't want to make that a Democrat, Republican thing because it's bipartisan. I feel hopeful about what I see from our current Department of Education and the work of Miguel Cardona, not only because I know him as a friend, but as an educator I know. I mean, I've had many conversations with him about trauma, about restorative practices, about how we help kids, about equity. I believe this guy can do something amazing for us if we support him. And so, whether you're a Democrat or Republican and independent, whatever party you might belong to, we have an. If you work in education, you have an educator leading us. Like I don't know how we could ask for more Like really And I'm supposed to be could ask for more like please pay teachers. There's the start, Yeah, there's that. But you know, at the end of the day I feel hopeful. I really do, And I guess for many of us in this field and I know many practitioners who I've talked to can relate to this statement it's like for some of us we couldn't leave this field if we wanted to. Right, I always joke to myself and I'm just going to go into job at a Walmart And I don't know, gather the shopping carts from the parking lot. You know, just something where I don't have to think too much. But we all know it, I couldn't do that if I wanted to, And neither could so many people that are doing this work. We couldn't walk away from this work if we tried to, because there's this compulsive feeling like this is what we're supposed to be doing. So we're doing it And, you know, I hope that we end up with more people who have that compulsion.David:
I want to make sure that we have time for you to answer all the questions that everybody answers when they come on at the end of the pod, but I want to make sure that we plug your book one more time and we'll do it again at the end. Building trauma-informed restoratives building a trauma-informed restorative school. Get it where all books are sold, but, as always, the link to the bookshop where you can buy it from a local independent bookstore is what will be linked in the show notes. As we've heard so much about doing this work is the practice, but it's always great to have some fundamentals. So if you want to tap into the intro to RJ racial and restorative justice course, the link to engage in that learning is in the show notes. If you want to go deeper in your practice or explore other aspects of doing work that is restorative and building a better world for future generations, we have learning opportunities for you to, both in courses and live workshops. If you're in a community school or organization that would benefit from this learning, we're more than happy to get on a call with you to talk about how we can support this work in your context, in addition to rating, reviewing and subscribing to this podcast. Amplification of this work also means sharing these learning opportunities with others. So if they're individuals in your life, you want to really know this work in a deep and meaningful way and you've found the things that you've heard here on this podcast really relevant, please send them our way. That's how we literally amplify the work. Now back to the questions that everybody answers when they come on these airwaves. We've already asked you to share your definition of restorative justice or the way that you conceptualize it, so I'm going to ask you for an oh shit moment in doing this work, a moment where you messed up or you made a decision to like, oh, i wish I had that back. And then what did you learn from it?Joe:
Oh geez, there's been so many of those, i think, early on in this work. I'll tell you my one moment that I still think about this moment often. I was very early on this work and I had a principal of a school. Basically give me free Roma for school. She's like do whatever you need to do, i believe, in this work, just do what you got to do. And I'd been asked to circle up this group of fourth grade girls that had been at each other for a while and find out what they were It was either fourth or fifth grade And you know, i had to walk down to that classroom and grab those girls and bring them to a room where we can circle them all up. And I was with another you know person who was going to co-co-lead the circle with me, because I very often have people with me that are training in the work. And so I had somebody training in the work with me And I was like, and we're walking down the hallway and I see this really tall, he's not even a principal, he was an intern to be an administrator And he had this little like second or third grade boy who's literally like a quarter of the size of him And he's just, you know, doing this with the finger pointing, just towering over this child and the kids you know crying. And he looked and as I walked by I heard him say you look at your teacher when you apologize. And in that second all I wanted to do was pull that kid away from those adults, because nothing about that was anything short and abusive power. He wasn't learning anything, they were just trying to get him to be a obedient, compliant little kid and shaming him all along, and I wanted nothing more than to interrupt that And I did not. I kept walking And to this day it has been, god, 12 plus years since that happened And I probably think about that at least once a week, like, why deny it? But it's also shaped how I walk forward with this work, and so a lot of educators and principals who've worked with me and superintendents know I'm not going to hold back on people now. If you're doing stuff that I think is hurting kids, i'm going to bring it to your attention. I'm willing to be wrong about what I'm pointing out, but I'm going to point it out, and the reason I think I drive that way is because I remember that little kid's face. I remember how sad and defeated he looked, and no little child should look that way. That's not learning, that's just abuse. And you know you're talking to a child of you survivor. I just don't think we need to do that to children to make them better humans. In fact, i think that kind of stuff makes them worse. So I think that's my big moment. I probably have about 50 more, but that is definitely the one that I'm not lying at all When I say I think of that little kid about once a week or so, that's probably. And it's usually because I'm off doing the work And I get tested of like, all right, do I say something or do I shut up, and I always think, well, there was that one time, joe, where you didn't say something and you should have, and so that, i think, was that that was like a pivotal moment for, like, how I do the work. You know just like, and if I literally have a time, travel back and just like, intervene in that moment to be like you, a dope, you need to go get regulated and step away from the kid And little kid, you need just a hug. Whoever you did did not warrant that treatment. And what can a third grader possibly do that would warrant that kind of like dehumanizing, shaming, nonsense. So yeah, all right, i'll get off that. So Fox.David:
Thank you for sharing that And I think it's just a reminder for folks. like, even in a system, even in a space where you don't have all the levers of power and control, like you get to make those like moment by moment decisions that are more human, right, forget trauma, informed, forget, restored and forget all this Like what is the thing that is affirming somebody's community this moment. It doesn't require big fancy terms like trauma, responsive, which you know We all want you to embrace, right, but you have the ability to make massive change in just those moments. This question is a little bit, maybe equally as difficult, but in a different way. you get to sit in circle with four people that are alive. Who are they And what is the one question you asked about circle?Joe:
So I am twice the survivor of violent crime in both of those incidents that people that were involved were not caught, and so there will be no justice, because there can't be, there can't be accountability, because we don't even know who these people are. And so I've, literally, as I do this work and I talk about being the victim of two violent hate crimes in the very first hate crime, which happened in 1989, 1990. I still wonder about that because literally my memory of those things is pretty trash. So but I look back and the memory of the event is pretty clear, at least that one. And during that event I had cash on me. I had lots of cash on me. It was not touched. I had the keys to a 1986 Pontiac Firebird which at the time was only a few years old Let's keep in mind, because you know I'm old but yet they took a ring off my finger. And so I've always had this fantasy that someday someone's gonna come back to me as I'm doing this work and say do you recognize this ring? And so I think if I was gonna circle up people, it would be those people, it would be the people that took the ring, it would be the people that, you know, 10 years after that, bashed me again. I just wanna sit down And I think my question for all of them would be tell me a time you got hurt, cause then I could at least humanize them in my head. And, as you can tell, i actually have sort of like invested some thought into what that conversation would sound like and look like, and you know I never spent too much time on it cause it's probably not healthy. But once in a blue moon I fantasized. I'm like what if I got to sit down with them all and just circle up past this talking piece, like I've done with so many times for other people and I've watched other people do it? Wouldn't it be amazing if I had that opportunity? What if somebody just showed up and said Joe, do you recognize this ring? Cause I know what my ring look like. I would know. And if you have it, there's only one way. You got it, so you took it from my hand And so there's. I think that would be my four people. I don't know if that's what other people's answers are. I'm sure they pick celebrities and family members, and for me I think it would be. I think it would be the people that hurt me.David:
Thank you for sharing that. What's the one thing a monster affirmation you want everyone listening to know.Joe:
Wow, that's a really hard question. I mean not just wow. I really do think it sounds like such a cheesy little thing to say to people, but everybody really is doing the best they can In the moment they're in with the skills and tools they have, with the nervous system they've been given. And so sometimes I think grace grace is everything. Just giving people grace, no matter who they are, what they've done. There's good in everyone, even when it's so hard to see, and so I think that would be it. Everybody's really doing the best they can, even when it doesn't look like that. You'd be surprised when people have been through a lot, the best they can doesn't look like much, but for some people it's legit the best they could give you, and so I wish we could see that more often in people.David:
And I just want to slide in there grace for yourself as well.Joe:
That too, I'm horrible at offering that to myself. Working on that, definitely working on that.David:
Beautiful Who's one person that I should have on this podcast And bonus points if you can help me get them on.Joe:
I could list a ton, but who I'll save right now Bruce Perry. I can't help you get Bruce Perry on the podcast but I don't think I could, but Bruce Perry is probably my top choice. I love listening to Bruce Perry talk But also I think has been really amazing and not necessarily falling into the restorative justice category or the trauma-informed category, but someone who speaks out against punishment in ways I've never seen anyone do is Stacey Patton. Like I'm just a big doctor Stacey Patton fan. But if you don't know who that is, she wrote a book called Spare the Kids, which really the subline of that book is why whooping children won't save black women. So she really wrote this book for black parents to really understand the history of how black parenting got to be so harsh. And she really calls out white European just the cruelty and history of white European parenting I mean there was a time in the Middle Ages where children were put in stockades for public ridicule for talking back to their parents. Like white parenting has created her premise in her book, which I just think is powerful is that white parenting paved a way to have children who lacked empathy as adults who could easily buy and sell other human beings and dehumanize others, and that black parents had to take on this harsh style of parenting that they learned from white European settlers and Puritans. She just spells out the history And the way she does it. It's really just the fact. Like you can't really like. She presents the facts And the facts are pretty hard to argue with, and she does it with a sense of humor that is interesting. I think she has an amazing sense of humor, but just something about the way she speaks to both abusive parenting from white parents and black parents, and she's not pointing a finger and blaming anybody. She says this is the facts and we could change it, but it still exists today. She points it out in her book. We celebrate when we see parents beating their children, like, yeah, that kid deserved it, that'll teach them blah, blah, when none of that stuff is true. Hitting your children is end of the story, bad for kids. At this point, trying to argue in favor of hitting a child is like flatter theory. It's probably not trauma-informed, and so in order to be truly trauma-informed, you need restorative justice. But in order to be truly restorative, you need trauma-informed Like. These two things can't be separate anymore And I don't know who needs to hear that message loud enough, but that is definitely the message that I want people to hear.David:
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. So I look forward to getting connected with some of the latter people that you mentioned. And then we will aspirationally reach for some of the first two. And just so you can say in your own words where and how can people support you and your work in the ways that you want to be supported?Joe:
You can always find me at my website, which is justmynamejoebrummercom. If you do get a chance to read my book, i always tell people to buy it from a local independent bookstore An LGBT-owned or black-owned business would be my favorite. If you do buy it from those folks, just go sneak over to Amazon and write a nice review, because that is kind of how books sell in this world is that Amazon does make an impact on what sells and what doesn't sell, and so having people write reviews on my book is really helped, and so far, i feel blessed that the reviews mostly out there, except for just one or two, have been really, really positive, and so, yeah, that's one way to support it. Yeah buy that book And if you've already read the book and you love it, buy a copy for an educator. you know.David:
Beautiful Links to do all of that with your website and purchase that book in the show notes. Joe, thank you so much for spending your afternoon with us on this restorative justice life For everyone else listening. We'll be back with another conversation with someone living this restorative justice life next week. Until then, take care, like would you heard. Please subscribe, rate, review and share this podcast on whatever platform you're using right now Or, if you're old school, tell a friend. It really helps us further amplify this work. You can also support us by following us on our social platforms, signing up for our email list, signing up for a community gathering, workshop or course, so many options, links to everything in the show notes Or on our website, amplifyrjcom. Thanks so much for listening. We'll talk to you next week.