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RCSD's Ruth Turner leads restorative approaches to conflict with new H.U.B.

Ruth Turner returned to the city school district in February this year as part of then-newly appointed superintendent Carmine Peluso. She was on the Board of Regents at the time.
Ryan Williamson
/
CITY
Ruth Turner returned to the city school district in February this year as part of then-newly appointed superintendent Carmine Peluso. She was on the Board of Regents at the time.

There’s a new space for resolving conflicts and interrupting cycles of violence at the Rochester City School District. It’s called the Restorative H.U.B. with H.U.B. standing for healing, understanding, and belonging

The hub is located at the Douglass campus on Fernwood Park. It’s a place where young people and adults can learn how to mediate and address conflicts using a peer-to-peer restorative approach that is available on an as-needed basis in the daytime and evenings.

“Usually, conflict exists because something happened or somebody's feelings were hurt,” said Ruth Turner, deputy superintendent for administration and supports. “So we're mindful to reengage them right and usually that works after we give them space to kind of vent.”

The hub is also designed to prevent conflict, Turner said, using education as a driving force for change. There, young people and adults can learn about mental health and how things in their everyday lives can affect that — from social media and peer pressure to isolation and controlling relationships.

She said it can be especially helpful for students returning to school from youth detention centers.

“We take them through this process so that they feel like they have a support plan, they get to invite whoever they feel is important to help them be successful and support them. So they're not just walking into a school one day coming in from a different location, but they're in a space where people are articulating ‘We care about you, we want you to be successful, want to hear what you need.’”

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She said it’s especially important that teens feel heard and validated, even if it can be uncomfortable for the adults in the room.

“We have to be ready to hear some of the hard things that they tell us that perhaps we're not doing well," she said. “And be able to respect that and work together to address those concerns.”

The success of the Restorative HUB program will be determined by how many people say “yes” to a referral, Turner said.

This report is part of a statewide, multi-platform public media initiative addressing teen mental health.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.