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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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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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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. Catalog Listing

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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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Restorative justice in the classroom: Lesson 5 the justice circle part 3 8-page pdf lesson which provides "students with an opportunity to learn and practice the facilitation of Justice Circles. After a review of the purpose and process, students role-play scenarios, covering all roles including the role of facilitator. After their role-play experience, students discuss whether the circle would be effective in both...(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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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) 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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Restorative justice programs in schools Powerpoint presentation introducing the idea of restorative justice. 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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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. 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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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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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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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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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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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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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) 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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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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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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