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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
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.
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."
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.
A Generation Later: What We've Learned about Zero Tolerance in Schools Zero tolerance discipline policies that mandate suspension or expulsion of students for misconduct have gained tremendous momentum over the past 25 years while also inviting deep controversy. With A Generation Later: What We’ve Learned about Zero Tolerance in Schools, Vera’s Center on Youth Justice looks at existing research about whether zero tolerance discipline policies make schools more orderly or safe, if out-of-school suspension or expulsion leads to greater involvement in the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems, and what effect these policies can have on a young person’s future. It concludes that, a generation after the rise of these policies and practices, neither schools nor young people have benefited. Fortunately, as described in the report, promising alternatives to zero tolerance can safely keep young people where they belong -- in school.
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
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."
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.
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.
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."
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 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."
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 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 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
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."
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.
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."
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."
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