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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
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)
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Restorative justice programs in schools Powerpoint presentation introducing the idea of restorative justice.
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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.
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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)
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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...(see more)
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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...(see more)
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Restorative justice in the classroom: Lesson 3 the justice circle 13-page pdf lesson which "through role-play, students examine the Justice Circle as a way of developing a system of support for both the victim and offender. They learn roles of the participants in a Justice Circle and develop respect for the perspectives and feelings of everyone involved. This includes an overview of who should be involved and...(see more)
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Best practices in bullying prevention and intervention Pdf document outlining best practices for bullying prevention and intervention.
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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)
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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.
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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...(see more)
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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,...(see more)
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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)
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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."
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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)
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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)
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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.
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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)
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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...(see more)
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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)
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