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Restorative Practices

A growing number of school communities across the United States have begun to explore the use of restorative justice processes as a means of addressing the limitations of these punitive discipline measures. In states like California, Colorado, MarylandMichigan and Minnesota, educators are implementing a variety of restorative discipline alternatives to traditional measures such as detention, suspension, expulsion, and police charges.

Many school districts have found restorative justice to be a more effective means of addressing school and victim safety, and transforming discipline into a learning opportunity. In schools using restorative justice practices, an offending student is given the opportunity to participate in a restorative discipline process as a means of repairing the harm done to those affected by the wrongdoing. These processes are voluntary for the parties and may be offered in lieu of punitive discipline measures, as a re-entry process following traditional discipline, or in combination with reduced sanctions.

restorative justice triangle

Rather than focusing exclusively on the punishment of offenders and their removal from society, the chief concern of restorative justice is to identify and repair the harm done by crime and wrongdoing to the greatest extent possible. This is achieved by holding offenders directly accountable to those they have harmed, through giving victims a direct voice in the process of repair, restoring the safety and trust within communities, and providing more meaningful outcomes for everyone affected.

Howard Zehr, an early pioneer of this movement, coined three “restorative questions” that have guided these restorative practices around the world. The questions are contrasted below with the “retributive questions” that have characterized the dominant response to crime in Western culture:

Restorative Justice
1. What is the harm that was done?
2. How can that harm be repaired?
3. Who is responsible for this repair?

Retributive Justice
1. What is the law that was broken?
2. Who broke that law?
3. How should they be punished?

Many of the different methods of restorative justice described above, such as victim-offender mediation, community group conferencing, and peacemaking circles, have been found to be useful in school settings.  The San Francisco Unified School District’s Restorative Practices Project and University of Maryland CDRUM program offer lots of helpful resources for educators interested in developing a program. A video from the Teacher’s Democracy Project of Baltimore looks at strategies from schools across the country for bringing Restorative Practices to schools. The website Fix School Discipline provides a useful toolkit for educators interested in implementing RJ in their schools.

Videos of Possible Interest

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Sample Catalog Resources

Below you'll find a randomized listing of up to 20 related items (we may have more...) drawn from our Resource Catalog.

Resource Title Description Links
Restorative justice for the classroom: Lesson 1 the community web 3-page pdf lesson "to identify community roles in conflict resolution and develop understanding of the significance of each role in keeping the community safe. Through role play, students learn how each role is a part of an intricate web of community support and how a breakdown in one part of the web affects the whole. Through this lesson students develop communication skills and empathy."
The Dignity in Schools Campaign Model Code on Education and Dignity The Dignity in Schools Campaign Model Code on Education and Dignity presents a set of recommended policies to schools, districts and legislators to help end school pushout and protect the human rights to education, dignity, participation and freedom from discrimination. The Code is the culmination of several years of research and dialogue with students, parents, educators, advocates and researchers who came together to envision a school system that supports all children and young people in reaching their full potential. Five chapters organize the 104 page document. They cover Education, Participation, Dignity, Freedom from Discrimination, and Monitoring and Accountability.In October 2013, DSC released a new revised version of the Model Code, which includes new sections on: social and emotional learning, prevention and response to bullying behavior, reducing tickets and summonses issued in school, reducing racial disparities in discipline through culturally responsive classroom management, creating safe schools for LGBTQ students and other topics. A community toolkit was also created to help groups make good use of the Model Code. It is available separately.
Restorative Interventions Implementation Tool Kit Implementation tools and resources for school staff and other adults trained to facilitate conferences and circles to repair harm in educational settings. The tools and resources are designed to assess readiness, implementation and outcomes, as well provide guidance for implementing any school-based restorative model.
Implementing restorative justice: A guide for schools This 24-page pdf is designed to introduce the concepts of restorative justice and restorative discipline to school personnel. "The guide advises on the use of the restorative justice philosophy to achieve student accountability, competency development, as well as community safety. The guide is specifically designed to provide Illinois school personnel and families with practical strategies to use restorative justice in their daily activities."
Using encouragement Document which discusses discouraging verbal messages, encouragement and how to teach problem solving skills adapted from Robert J. Mackenzie's book, "Setting limits in the classroom: How to move beyond the classroom dance of discipline."
A Generation Later: What We've Learned about Zero Tolerance in Schools Zero tolerance discipline policies that mandate suspension or expulsion of students for misconduct have gained tremendous momentum over the past 25 years while also inviting deep controversy. With A Generation Later: What We’ve Learned about Zero Tolerance in Schools, Vera’s Center on Youth Justice looks at existing research about whether zero tolerance discipline policies make schools more orderly or safe, if out-of-school suspension or expulsion leads to greater involvement in the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems, and what effect these policies can have on a young person’s future. It concludes that, a generation after the rise of these policies and practices, neither schools nor young people have benefited. Fortunately, as described in the report, promising alternatives to zero tolerance can safely keep young people where they belong -- in school.
Circle Time Poster This poster, designed for use with primary age students in the U.K., is an aid to those who use circle time and provides useful reminders for children to ensure the sessions are positive and productive.
Community justice in the campus setting Pdf article from Conflict Management in Higher Education Report, Volume 3, Number 1, (Oct 2002), which examines the idea of community justice and how it can be used on college campuses to address student misconduct and improve socialization. Includes bibliography.
A Social Justice Lens: A Teaching Resource Guide This 12-page guide provides a lens that applies social justice and critical theory to all aspects of an educators professional life. The tool provides a framework for unions and schools to help guide policy, plan actions, and evaluate resources for social change. Social justice theory focuses on equity for all and critical theory requires action and systemic change. These two concepts form the basis of the British Columbia Teachers Federation social justice lens. The lens has four distinct interconnecting filters -- access, agency, advocacy, and solidarity action. Each represents an aspect of social justice work, and, while we may focus on one filter at a time, the true potential of these filters lies in engaging with all four simultaneously. Participatory democracy, civil society, transformative practice, and systemic change found on the rotating outer ring of the lens are necessary to achieve the ultimate goal of equity found at the centre of the lens.
Restorative Practices in Catholic School Communities: Audit Tools 33-page pdf providing 9 different assessment instruments for schools developing restorative practice initiatives. Prepared in Australia, "The...Audit Tools for Restorative Practices have been developed by the Student Wellbeing Team of the Catholic Education Office (Melbourne) for use by the Core Leadership Team and staff in the school. The purpose of the tools is to provide...both quantitative and qualitative data regarding the implementation of Restorative Practices strategies at the school level."
The Role of Restorative Justice in Teen Courts: A Preliminary Look In March 2000, the American Probation and Parole Association convened a focus group to examine and discuss the role of restorative justice in teen court programs (also called youth and peer courts). The panel consisted of persons working actively in teen courts and persons working actively in more traditional restorative justice-based programs. This paper provides a brief overview of restorative justice principles and addresses several key issues the focus group members identified that serve as a promising foundation from which teen courts can begin to move toward integrating more restorative justice-based practices within their programs. Key issues discussed include how youth courts can rethink the role of victims and the community within their programs, how youth courts can alter the way that their proceedings and practices are structured, and how youth courts can rethink and redefine sentencing options so that they are based on the restorative justice philosophy.
Media Toolkit for Restorative Justice Organisations This 100+ page media toolkit presents 10 chapters of practical advice on doing a promotional campaign supporting restorative justice. It was prepared within the framework of the project Building social support for restorative justice, implemented by the European Forum for Restorative Justice (EFRJ) and the partner organisations, between April 2008 and April 2010, and co-financed by the European Commission. The Building social support for restorative justice project has tried to answer three main questions: 1) How can interaction and cooperation with the media be set up in order to inform and educate the public about restorative justice (RJ)? 2) How can cooperation be developed with civil society organi- sations in order to create broad support for RJ? 3) How can we increase the involvement of individual citizens in the functioning of local RJ programmes? The resulting media toolkit covers the following topics: Tool one - Strategic communication planning Tool two - Understanding the media Tool three - Building media relationships Tool four: Developing ethical guideline Tool five - Press release and media events Tool six– Giving interviews Tool seven- Media public campaigns Tool eight- Exploring new media Tool nine- Communication for social change Tool ten- Taking design seriously
Facilitating Restorative Group Conferences Facilitating Restorative Group Conferences is a curriculum (6-sessions in length) designed for training volunteer and employed facilitators who will conduct restorative group conferences. It is provided as a set of files for participants and a set of files, including powerpoints, for trainers. A restorative group conference, as used here, refers to a process that seeks to identify, repair and prevent harm, based in restorative justice values including meaningful accountability. A restorative group conference is led by a trained facilitator and involves face-to-face contact among one or more victims or their representative, the offenders, supporters for both, and other people who are affected. Participation of the victim is completely voluntary, and participation of the offender is based upon their willingness and readiness. Development of this curriculum is a project of the Minnesota Department of Corrections, made possible through financial support from the National Institute of Corrections Technical Assistance program.
Restorative Justice: A Working Guide for Our Schools The purpose of this publication, available as a 43-page pdf, is to provide support and guidance for teachers, health workers, community leaders, and school personnel who seek to implement Restorative Justice in their schools. The guide introduces Restorative Justice concepts, articulates what is new about the approach, explores benefits, outcomes and impacts and provides guidance on initiating Restorative Justice at the school or district level. Also included are listings of resources for additional information and support.
Restorative justice programs in schools Powerpoint presentation introducing the idea of restorative justice.
Restorative justice in the school setting: A whole school approach 12-page PDF paper promoting the teaching of restorative justice in schools. "Restorative justice is a philosophy and a set of practices that embraces the right blend between a high degree of discipline that encompasses clear expectations, limits and consequences and a high degree of support and nurturance."
Promoting SEAL through circle time 7-page PDF document promoting Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning through circle time for secondary students. "Circle time sessions provide a potential vehicle for the classroom delivery of the SEAL curriculum. Circle time is a time set aside each week when a whole class of young people and their teacher sit in a circle and explicitly engage in a structured programme of games, experiential activities, discussion and relaxation strategies ... It aims to provide an emotionally safe forum for participants to engage with a range of key issues, including peer relationships, conflict resolution, shared goal setting, justice, friendship, democratic principles, respect for individual differences and freedom of choice."
Incorporating restorative approaches 82-page PDF topic guide which presents a, "session plan, guidance and resources for training day focusing on incorporating restorative approaches. Aims to develop an understanding of restorative approaches and their role in behaviour and attendance improvement. The aim is also [to] develop an understanding of the leadership issues in incorporating restorative approaches and explore how restorative approaches might be developed in [one's] own setting." Also available is a related set of 12 slides in ppt format for use in training event.
Restorative justice programs in schools Web-site created by the Marist Youth Care organization with information about restorative justice programs. "Marist Youth Care is a not for profit agency dealing with at risk young people. We draw our energy and motivation from the call of the gospel to assist socially disadvantaged people to take their rightful place in the community," from the Marist Youth Care website.
Restorative Practices: Fostering Healthy Relationships and Promoting Positive Discipline in Schools As educators partner with districts to move away from zero tolerance discipline policies and ramp up e orts to strengthen safe and supportive schools, address con ict, improve school climate, and build a positive school culture that students are connected to, many campuses are looking to implement alternative, restorative approaches. This toolkit was developed to illustrate how restorative strategies can be seamlessly integrated into the classroom, curriculum, and culture of schools. It de nes what restorative practices are, explains why they are a transformational tool for fostering healthy relationships in schools and shows how they can be useful processes for students, educators, and learning communities. This toolkit is intended for all educators who support the growth and health of students in schools. It is an introduction for those new to the concepts and will help support and enhance the work of teachers already implementing these practices in their classrooms. e toolkit includes digestible models, frameworks, and action steps for school-wide implementation, accompanied by guiding questions to support re ection for practitioners looking to make restorative methods part of the fabric of daily life in schools. It also recognizes the signi cant role all education professionals play in maintaining a school community that models respectful, trusting, and caring relationships.