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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
What have I done: Victim empathy pack responsibility exercises 13-page Word document presenting a "new victim empathy resource designed to keep victim awareness high in Restorative Justice practitioner's priorities." Contains a number of exercises about taking responsibility for one's actions and exploring feelings.
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 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 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.
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."
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.
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
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."
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."
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."
Best practices in bullying prevention and intervention Pdf document outlining best practices for bullying prevention and intervention.
National evaluation of the restorative justice in schools programme 99-page pdf document which provides the findings of national (England and Wales), "projects [which] spanned a range of different approaches to introducing restorative practices into schools, including restorative justice conferences ... the contract to evaluate these initiatives was awarded to Partners in Evaluation, a specialist agency with a multi-ethnic team of researchers and a national reputation for conducting evaluations in the fields of health, education, social exclusion and regeneration." Includes a literature review, sample pupil and school staff surveys and post-conference interview schedule for perpetrators and aggrieved.
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.
Kids Working It Out Resource Appendix A listing of books, publications and websites provided in the appendix to Tricia S. Jones and Randy O. Compton (Eds.) 2003 book Kids Working It Out: Stories and Strategies for Making Peace in Our Schools.
Making things right: Restorative justice comes to campuses Pdf article from Conflict Management in Higher Education Report, Volume 1, Number 1, (Jan/Feb 2000), discussing the use of restorative justice principles for "creative options to traditional justice systems, options which are flexible enough to allow positive productive responses to a variety of offenses or violations and which also meet the unique needs of the University community."
40 cases: Restorative justice and victim-offender mediation 86-page book in PDF format which, "provides a diverse range of first hand accounts from mediators and facilitators offering some means of communication between victims and offenders. Through the authentic voices of practitioners, the cases unfold to reveal how communication was facilitated and the outcomes that followed. This publication aims to provide practitioners, policy makers and interested professionals with: - Opportunities to compare practice - An examination of the appropriateness of offering access to Restorative Justice - An understanding of the subtleties of facilitated victim-offender communication - An opportunity to see beyond our own preconceptions of victims and offenders - Clarity and inspiration."
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."
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
Restorative justice programs in schools Powerpoint presentation introducing the idea of restorative justice.
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.