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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. In Canada, Ontario educators have created a Restorative Practice Consortium that collects and shares educational resources for restorative work.

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 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.
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."
Restorative conferences resource kit 60-page pdf resource kit for presenting restorative conferences which "(involves the gathering of those who have a stake in a particular troublesome situation, to talk together to find ways of making amends) ... the purpose of these conferences is to discuss what the problem might be and to pool ideas about what might be most helpful from here, for all concerned, from this pool of ideas should emerge a plan for restoration of the situation... These Conferences offer a helpful step forward by involving a range of participants who both contribute to and are affected by the situation at hand, they promote a spirit of open and direct conversation and add a human touch to the process of addressing transgressions... this Resource Kit represents the culmination of 18 months of work by a group whose links are with restorative justice, Maori protocols, and counsellor training with narrative therapy at the University of Waikato." Includes bibliography
Facilitation Guide for Restorative Justice Community Accountability Panel Members This manual is designed to assist a Trainer in conducting sessions for the purpose of teaching facilitation skills to members of Restorative Justice Community Accountability Panels, or other models of Restorative Justice. It was prepared by using taped transcripts of Training Sessions held for Chilliwack Restorative Justice and Youth Diversion Association, presented by Wendy Burton, professor at the University College of the Fraser Valley. Content has been edited. The information contained in this manual covers the basics of communication and facilitation skills. The manual contains three parts: a participant guide, a trainer's guide, and a collection of handouts and exercises.
Restorative justice in the classroom: Lesson 4 the justice circle part 2 5-page pdf lesson which provides "students with an understanding of the process of Justice Circles and teaching them how to use this strategy in conflict resolution. Students practice setting restorative consequences and assess whether the consequences they identify would be effective in both healing the victim and helping the offender learn a better way to behave."
Restorative justice programs in schools Powerpoint presentation introducing the idea of restorative justice.
Best practices in bullying prevention and intervention Pdf document outlining best practices for bullying prevention and intervention.
RESTORE Our Schools This 10-page document entitled RESTORE provides a restorative perspective that can inform how we plan for the return to the classrooms, playgrounds and corridors of physical schools. It highlights seven key areas which, alongside learning, are where we need to stimulate thinking and make decisions in order to collectively move forward into a healthy ‘new normal’. The areas intersect, interconnect and affect each other, as we all do. RESTORE is a lens through which staff, children and parents can look at the strategy and plans that are needed for everyone’s well-being in a fast changing environment and for a safe and healthy return to school. The seven themes represented by the seven letters of the word RESTORE emerged from discussions on the current pandemic and its impact on us all, but particularly on schools: the students, parents and care-givers and the school staff. The letters of the word RESTORE, could be seen as falling into two areas of need, one the recent past and our experiences of it, and the other looking ahead to how we want to be as a result of this experience: The first four letters of the acronym, relating to Recognise, Empathise, Safety and Trauma, are connected to what has happened and its effects on us. The last three letters, relating to Opportunity, Relationships and Engagement, are key to how we are going forward into a new normal.
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."
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."
Continuum of [restorative justice] strategies 1-page PDF chart illustrating a continuum of restorative justice strategies, with an informal end where staff are provided with skills of how to engage young people in a dialogue that emphasises a greater sense of other and a more formal end with skills to restore damaged relationships following an incident or outburst.
Restorative Approaches in Schools A Guide for School Managers and Governors Restorative approaches provide schools with a range of practices which promote mutually respectful relationships and manage behaviour and conflict, address bullying and absences and build community cohesion. Restorative approaches are not new, but offer a framework upon which to build on existing good practice. There is a wealth of evidence that shows how the use of restorative approaches alongside Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL), helps to develop more resilient and self regulating learners, thus creating positive learning environments. This 25-page guide describes the underpinning philosophy of restorative approaches and their links to current developments in education, gives advice on implementation and through case studies, shows the impact on individuals, classes and whole school policy and practice. It sets out how restorative approaches can create a positive ethos, change perspectives of pupils, staff and parents and offer viable and successful alternatives to traditional conflict resolution approaches. The purpose is to connect and re-engage everyone on the learning journey.
Parent-To-Parent Guide on Restorative Justice This "Parent-to-Parent Guide to Restorative Justice in the Chicago Public Schools" provides background on POWER-PAC’s Elementary Justice Campaign and their work to end “zero-tolerance” policies and bring restorative justice to the schools. It also gives suggestions for parents wanting to bring restorative practices to their schools.
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."
How We Can Fix School Discipline Toolkit The 77-page 'How We Can Fix School Discipline Toolkit' contains step-by-step tools and real-life stories about implementing the alternatives to suspension and expulsion that are proven to keep students in school and learning, improve school climate and student behavior, allow teachers to teach more effectively, help administrators meet benchmarks, and keep communities from seeing many of their children ending up in the juvenile justice system. Alternative approaches featured include School-Wide Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (SWPBIS), Restorative Justice or Restorative Practices, and Social Emotional Learning. The document is structured as follows: 1. Know the problem (pages 4-10) 2. Learn about alternatives from real-life examples (pages 11-48) 3. Advocate for Change (page 63) 4. Monitor progress (pages 68-70) 5. Get the word out (pages 64-67) 6. Contacts (pages 71-78) A companion website is available at http://www.fixschooldiscipline.org. A video archive of a webinar introducing the toolkit is available at http://youtu.be/6PrCh0MiRZc
Addressing off-campus student conduct with restorative justice Pdf article from Conflict Management in Higher Education Report, Volume 6, Number 1, (Nov 2005), which introduces a program where "over 200 students ... participated in restorative justice, meeting face-to-face with community members, fellow students, and campus staff to resolve their cases at the neighborhood level, the results of their conference agreements include hundreds of hours of service in the neighborhoods affected (picking up litter, tutoring at a gradeschool, volunteering at the local library, serving meals to the homeless, etc.), plus written apologies, verbal apologies to neighborhood boards, outreach and education efforts on campus, and in some cases, self-help such as chemical dependency counseling."
Completing the Circle Manual for Conferencing with Children Under 12 This guide was developed as part of the research project Completing the Circle, Breaking the Cycle: Conferencing for Children at Risk that ran from 2002-2004 as part of the Child and Youth Worker Program at George Brown College in Toronto. The guide provides tips and advice on working with younger children (age 12 and below) using restorative practices. More information on the project is available via Just Us at justusrestorativepractices.weebly.com/writings-and-articles.html
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.
Program theory for restorative practices in schools Handout which charts how restorative practices function in schools.
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."