Conflict Resolution in Public Schools

PBS Correspondent Judy Valente reports on Conflict Resolution Circles – practices rooted in Quaker, Mennonite and North American Indian spirituality, and how two Kansas schools use the ’circle’ method to end the revolving door of suspension and expulsion of students. Teachers say they hope the students will take the peace making skills they learn at school out into their communities.

RESTORE: Activities to support secondary pupils during COVID-19

At the beginning of lockdown due to COVID-19, a group of organisations in the UK, passionate about peace and Restorative Practice, came together to think about how they could support schools during this time. The group produced a framework, RESTORE, as their contribution. RESTORE offers questions, methodologies and thinkpieces for school communities as they seek to re-build relationships between staff, pupils and parents and consider the social and emotional impacts this collective experience is having. This 16-page PDF is focused on supporting secondary pupils. Other related materials can be found on the Peacemakers website.

The activities are organised around the RESTORE acronym: Recognition, Empathy, Safety, Trauma, Opportunities, Relationships and Engagement.

  • R – What do we notice is happening in this moment?
  • E – What feelings are emerging?
  • S – Given the climate in the group right now, is it safe to continue?
  • T – Do individuals need time to regulate, and/or time to connect with others before we can talk about what has happened? Can we do this as a group?
  • O – What positives can I draw on?
  • R – How can I build connections between everyone right now?
  • E – How can I gather thoughts, feelings and ideas from everyone? How do I feedback to people?

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.

RESTORE is the fruit of an ongoing collaboration among a group of Head Teachers, consultants, researchers and charities working in and with schools to implement and embed a restorative approach. See more information at

An Alternative to In-School Suspension

In lieu of a more punitive approach, students use restorative practices to resolve conflicts and reflect on their behaviors. Conflict resolution is a key aspect of Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School’s approach to infractions that previously might have merited in-school suspension. In the school’s restorative circles, counselors guide students to recognize the impact of their behavior on their peers and the school as a whole.

Restoring Schools

The Teacher’s Democracy Project of Baltimore Maryland has produced a 14-minute video about how schools implement Restorative Practices district-wide. Listen to the voices of experience from teachers who have worked on bringing RJ to their learning environments.

Schools resolve conflicts by getting kids to talk things out (PBS NewsHour)

Schools across the country are moving away from an era of zero-tolerance policies and shifting toward methods that involve restorative justice, encouraging students to resolve their differences by talking to each other rather than resorting to violence. In New York City, five schools that have implemented this system are already seeing results. NewsHour Weekend’s Megan Thompson reports.

The Transformation of West Philadelphia High School: a story of hope

West Philadelphia High School was on the state’s “Persistently Dangerous Schools” list for six years. After one year of implementing Restorative Justice, the climate improved dramatically: suspensions dropped 50%, violent acts and serious incidents declined 52% in 2007-2008, and another 40% by the end of the Fall semester in 2008-2009. This video takes a look at what was done there.

It’s Time for California Schools to Stop Suspending More Students Than They Graduate

Listen to folks who have experienced the affects, and witnessed the results, of failed harsh discipline policies that aren’t adding up to a better tomorrow for students. You’ll hear students, teachers, and administrators who offer insider’s knowledge on how to fix this problem. Let’s keep schools safe, keep students in the classroom and pave the way for a healthy and more successful future for California’s young people.

TEDx Talk: Restorative Practices to Resolve Conflict and Build Relationships

This inspiring talk about taking a “Time In” with people who have caused problems for you was presented by Katy Hutchison at TEDx West Vancouver. Katy became a Restorative Justice advocate following the murder of her first husband. After ten years of sharing her story internationally to over five hundred schools and community groups, she views the education system as the structure with the most potential to affect positive social change. Katy sits on the Boards of Restorative Practices International & Glenlyon Norfolk School and volunteers for Leave Out Violence (LOVE).

Teaching Humanitarian Law with Raid Cross

Adolescents are surrounded by violence. Usually they see it in political or historical terms (through the media, teaching and literature) or in the context of amusements (video games, movies). The purpose of Raid Cross, a learning simulation, is to make these adolescents aware of the reality of armed conflict and humanitarian action, thus giving them tools for interpreting events, the news, and violence in general. Raid Cross is an activity that uses international humanitarian law as an instrument for encouraging more extensive thought about human behavior. It focuses on the protection of life and human dignity in wartime and, more generally, in all the experiences of daily life. For more information, visit the Red Cross collection of Resources for Educators.

Restorative Justice at Mountain View Alternative HS

Restorative Justice processes are being implemented across many schools in Fairfax County, VA. This video looks at the process at Mountain View Alternative High School after one year of implementation.

Restorative Practices and Texting While Driving

This video tells the story of a traffic accident caused by texting while driving that resulted in a fatality. It has been used as part of a 30-minute lesson plan focused on preventing traffic deaths due to distracted driving while also sharing the Restorative Justice Philosophy. The young man (19 years old at the time) who caused the accident now does speaking engagements in schools to try and help repair some of the harm he caused.