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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 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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Statement of restorative justice principles: As applied in a school setting: 2nd edition 24-page PDF document of "Principles [which] form the basis for restorative practices in all settings, using all models, where the primary aims are to repair harm and promote dialogue ... Restorative practices are underpinned by a set of values, these include: Empowerment, honesty, respect, engagement, voluntarism, healing, restoration, personal accountability, inclusiveness, collaboration, and problem-solving."
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 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."
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."
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."
Program theory for restorative practices in schools Handout which charts how restorative practices function in schools.
The Challenge of Culture Change: Embedding Restorative Practice in Schools Paper presented at the Sixth International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices: “Building a Global Alliance for Restorative Practices and Family Empowerment”. Sydney, Australia,March 3-5, 2005. Argues that Restorative practice, with its emphasis on relationships, demands that schools attend to all aspects of the school culture and organisation and that they develop a range of relational practices that help prevent incidents of inappropriate behaviour from arising in the first place. Presents stages for the implementation of this kind of cultural change process.
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.
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."
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."
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.