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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, Michigan and Minnesota, educators are implementing a variety of restorative discipline alternatives to traditional measures such as detention, suspension, expulsion, and police charges.

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.  A national contact list for restorative practices in schools provides a good starting point for networking if you are considering this kind of work in your school or district. The website Fix School Discipline provides a useful toolkit for educators interested in implementing RJ in their schools.

Related Videos of Possible Interest

Related 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 TitleDescriptionLinks
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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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. Catalog Listing

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Best practices in bullying prevention and intervention Pdf document outlining best practices for bullying prevention and intervention. Catalog Listing

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Program theory for restorative practices in schools Handout which charts how restorative practices function in schools. Catalog Listing

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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. Catalog Listing

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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,...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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. Catalog Listing

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The Role of Restorative Justice in Teen Courts: A Preliminary Look In March 2000, the American Probation and Parole Association convened a focus group to examine and discuss the role of restorative justice in teen court programs (also called youth and peer courts). The panel consisted of persons working actively in teen courts and persons working actively in more traditional restorative justice-based...(see more) Catalog Listing

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