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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.


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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...(see more) 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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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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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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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...(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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The Challenge of Culture Change: Embedding Restorative Practice in Schools Paper presented at the Sixth International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices: “Building a Global Alliance for Restorative Practices and Family Empowerment”. Sydney, Australia,March 3-5, 2005. Argues that Restorative practice, with its emphasis on relationships, demands that schools attend to all aspects of the...(see more) Catalog Listing

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

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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." 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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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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...(see more) Catalog Listing

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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. 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 Powerpoint presentation introducing the idea of restorative justice. 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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Dignity in Schools Model Code Community Toolkit The Model Code is an in-depth policy document that provides detailed language that schools, districts and states can adopt to help end school pushout. It is written to allow communities and policy-makers to use different sections of the Code to address particular policy topics, such as positive alternatives to suspension, in order to change...(see more) Catalog Listing

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