St. Francis Borgia Grade School has implemented a program designed to decrease anti-social behavior while increasing faith practices.
That’s the philosophy behind the Virtue Based Restorative Discipline (VBRD) — finding ways to restore harm done to another person.
“If everyone were kind, gentle and loving, what would life be like?” said Lori Kimminau, an eighth-grade teacher on the VBRD committee.
Kimminau said the main goal of the program is to create a unified, kind and loving school environment.
VBRD is the Catholic response to bullying behavior. It teaches students to strive toward virtues listed in Colossians 3:12-15, which states that people should be, as Christians, forgiving, loving and unified.
Kimminau said there are buckets on a “prayer table” in each classroom and other areas of the school, such as the cafeteria and gym, that contain stones with a virtue written on them from the verses in Colossians.
When students display negative behaviors, they are taken to the bucket and shown each stone. They then must choose the stone with the virtue that they need to work on.
“They usually know,” Kimminau said.
There are still consequences for their behavior, she said, but they also are expected to “restore the harm” they might have done to another student.
Kimminau gave an example.
“Yesterday a student stepped on another student’s snack on purpose,” she said. “That student gets 10 minutes out of recess, but will bring in another snack for the other student. That’s the restorative part.”
Kimminau said each year the school focuses on one of the virtues, although they are all strived for each day. Last year the students focused on kindness. This year it’s unity.
VBRD is already showing some positive results, or “miracles,” Kimminau said.
The other day in a PE class, a boy came up to the teacher and said that another boy had stuffed a PE vest into his face, she said.
“The teacher called them over and talked to both of them only to find out that the boy had apparently just wanted him to smell the AXE that he had sprayed on it, but, unfortunately he shoved it in to the boy’s face a little too roughly.
“The teacher kept the two boys after class and had them choose a virtue stone from the bucket showing which virtue they needed to work on.”
The teacher told Kimminau the first boy chose “gentleness” and the other boy chose “forgiveness.”
“No story here, right?” Kimminau said. “But what happened next is very touching.”
The teacher was getting ready to send home a behavior “ticket” with the boy who had stuffed the vest into his classmate’s face. She looked over at the other little boy who had been wronged.
“He had tears in his eyes,” Kimminau said. “When the teacher asked him why he was crying, he said, very quietly, that he didn’t think she needed to give his classmate the ticket.”
When the teacher asked him why, the boy replied in a very shaky, tearful voice, “Because I am kind.”
“Needless to say her heart was touched and she did not give that ticket,” Kimminau said.
Students are rewarded when staff members observe them displaying good virtues. Kimminau said they receive a “good job” card of recognition on one of the bulletin boards around the school.
“Kids can see kindness building up,” she said.
Another component of VBRD is the “circle,” Kimminau said. Students gather in a circle once a month in their classrooms and are given a discussion topic. Each circle has a “talking piece,” which at Borgia, is a cross. The student with the cross is the only one allowed to speak.
“It’s great because for some students, it’s the only time anyone listens to them,” Kimminau said.
The philosophy of the program is one Kimminau said is being encouraged throughout the parish and circles also are being held by staff members and parishioners.
The school unofficially kicked off the program last year, but achieved certification from the Archdiocese of St. Louis this past summer.