The cornerstone of Maple Hill Free School’s philosophy is our group democratic decision making process. We believe that a democratic learning environment allows rights and freedoms to be distributed equally to all, regardless of age or role. Decisions pertaining to the day-to-day operations of the environment, rules of behavior, and situations directly concerning the entire group will be made through a guided democratic process, where everyone- adults and children alike- has a single, equal vote. These decisions are addressed and voted on at a Whole Group Meeting.
Issues such as the physical and emotional health and safety of members of our community will not be addressed by the Whole Group Meeting. When dealing with issues of this regard, staff will address them on a case-by-case basis with logical and non-punitive solutions, always aiming to help children repair the situation while maintaining everyone’s dignity, freedom, and the social health of the community.
Maple Hill Free school will use a structured method of conflict resolution to involve our entire community in finding solutions to our problems. Encouraging everyone to participate in the process allows learners to see and hear how their decisions affect everyone in the community, even though the conflict may only directly involve two people. Learners or staff can ask for help mediating a conflict at the morning meeting, or wait for a weekly Whole Group meeting if their problem requires the resources or opinions of the entire community.
Our steps to a fair and justified resolution look something like this:
- Address the problem. Relevant parties have a safe space to share their side of the story, without assigning blame or being interrupted. The goal is to allow everyone to have a clear understanding of the problem so that we may begin to repair it. Individuals may call on peers to corroborate their case.
- Suggest solutions. Anyone with an idea will be encouraged to make a suggestion, no matter how extreme. All potential solutions will be recorded.
- Discuss potential solutions. The group will discuss the suggestions and weigh the pros and cons of each solution. Unreasonable ideas will be discarded at this stage.
- Vote on a solution. All members of the community will be encouraged to vote on a solution. Everyone’s vote carries equal weight.
- Revisit the solution. The next Whole Group Meeting will address the solution and discuss whether or not it continues to be an acceptable one. Another solution brainstorm and vote may be held if the group decides it is necessary.