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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
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
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.
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."
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
Educational discipline using the principles of restorative justice 15-page pdf article which "shows how restorative justice techniques can be used with students in correctional and alternative education settings. The simple principles of restorative justice are outlined and their suitability for offenders is illustrated through actual prison incidents that have been dealt with using these principles. A protocol is suggested for teachers and administrators who might consider adopting this approach."
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.
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."
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."
Program theory for restorative practices in schools Handout which charts how restorative practices function in schools.
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.
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.
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."
Restorative justice in the classroom: Lesson 2 class meetings 8-page pdf lesson which "through role-play and discussion, this lesson will help students understand the motives behind offending and re-offending and to develop problem-solving consequences that will help offenders learn a better way to behave. By developing restorative consequences, the classroom community can help the offender repair the harm he/she has caused and discourage the offender from re-offending. Students practice consensus building and explore the consequence-setting aspect of justice circles."
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.