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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
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.
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.
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 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."
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.
Restorative justice in the classroom: Lesson 5 the justice circle part 3 8-page pdf lesson which provides "students with an opportunity to learn and practice the facilitation of Justice Circles. After a review of the purpose and process, students role-play scenarios, covering all roles including the role of facilitator. After their role-play experience, students discuss whether the circle would be effective in both healing the victim and helping the offender learn a better way to behave, and explore what could have been done differently to more effectively meet those objectives."
Best practices in bullying prevention and intervention Pdf document outlining best practices for bullying prevention and intervention.
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."
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 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
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."
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."
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 justice in the classroom: Lesson 3 the justice circle 13-page pdf lesson which "through role-play, students examine the Justice Circle as a way of developing a system of support for both the victim and offender. They learn roles of the participants in a Justice Circle and develop respect for the perspectives and feelings of everyone involved. This includes an overview of who should be involved and what participants might be experiencing/feeling-- setting the ground rules for using this strategy to resolve conflict."
Teach kids a lesson ... or help them to learn? 11-page PDF paper which promotes the idea of restorative justice practices in education as opposed to punitive ones. "Restorative justice philosophy views misbehavior in terms of how it has impacted upon relationships in the school community. Once the harm is acknowledged in a concrete way the process moves beyond harm to ask how can this harm be repaired? If schools are places of learning, where young people are encouraged to be independent and creative thinkers, are able to share their ideas and opinions, learn to accept the view of others, to be responsible and accountable for their learning, it stands to reason that the "punitive school" is being counter productive in achieving these desired outcomes."
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.
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."
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 programs in schools Powerpoint presentation introducing the idea of restorative justice.