One day during the fall, Jeff, an African American student at Oakland High School, slaps TC, a girl at school, “hard on the behind.” TC is humiliated, and Jeff’s actions constitute sexual harassment. The school punishes Jeff with “restorative justice,” and when TC sits down with him during the meeting, she discovers that Jeff has slapped another girl, Pancha, as well. The three students have a serious conversation about Jeff’s actions and how it makes the girls feel, and by the end of the session, they are “friends.”
Had Jeff not been punished using restorative justice, it is likely that he would have been either suspended or expelled from school, which would also have a negative effect on the community. By forcing Jeff to face his crimes, he becomes accountable for them, and it is unlikely that he will repeat the same offense. Had Jeff simply been kicked out, it is unlikely he would come to the same conclusions.
Now, Jeff, TC, and Pancha all joke about Jeff’s “ass smacking.” “Without the circle,” they all agree, “the whole thing would have blown over, but the residue would have remained.” Restorative justice “allows them to hold two things in their head at the same time—that butt-slapping is funny, and also that it isn’t.”
This passage points to Slater’s argument of the dangers of binary thought. Restorative justice assumes that people and things are not either/or, and this helps Jeff to appreciate that to TC and Pancha, butt-slapping isn’t always funny.