***Post written by Jessica Andrew, therapist and psychologist for Region V BOCES***
As school districts around the nation struggle to find effective solutions to improve campus safety and security, an often overlooked component is the building of strong community and positive relationships. Restorative Practices promotes building respectful and trusting relationships as the foundation of teaching and learning. The implementation of Restorative Practices has been shown to improve school culture and climate, increase the amount of time students are in the classroom, improve standardized test scores, and reduce the number of student referrals, suspensions, and expulsions.
Restorative Practices is a philosophy and practice emphasizing the harm caused to people and relationships, rather than rules that have been broken. Through this lens, students are provided meaningful opportunities to develop self-discipline and take responsibility for their behaviors. Restorative Practices emphasizes the importance of “making things right” by repairing harm(s) that were caused and meeting the needs of those affected by this harm. The following table highlights the difference in approaches between traditional disciplinary practices and Restorative Practices:
|Traditional Discipline||Restorative Practice|
|Misbehavior is defined as breaking school rules||Misbehavior is defined by the impact/harm caused to people and relationships|
|Focus on establishing blame||Focus on establishing responsibility to repair harm/make things right|
|Administrator determines the punishment||Individuals responsible and those impacted create an agreement to make things right|
|Isolation of person responsible||Reintegration into the community|
Restorative Practices is comprised of a continuum of responses ranging from informal to formal. These include affective statements, affective (restorative) questions, small impromptu conferences, groups or circles, and formal conferences. Restorative questions are used to increase understanding of why a behavior occurred and how it impacted an individual or the community. When responding to a conflict that arises or a rule that has been broken, the people involved are asked these questions:
- What happened?
- What were you thinking at the time?
- What have you thought about since?
- Who has been affected by what happened?
- What do you think needs to happen to make things right?
Many organizations including juvenile courts and school districts around the nation have implemented Restorative Practices with successful results. Restorative Practices encourages accountability, improves school safety, culture, and climate, and helps students develop skills to be successful in life.
The following resources are provided for individuals who wish to learn more about Restorative Practices.
- Clark County (Washington) Juvenile Court: https://www.clark.wa.gov/juvenile-court/about
- International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP): https://www.iirp.edu/restorative-practices/what-is-restorative-practices
Other States/School Districts Who Have Implemented Restorative Practices:
- Colorado: https://www.rjcolorado.org/restorative-justice/restorative-practices-in-schools
- Oakland Unified School District (CA): https://www.ousd.org/restorativejustice
- San Francisco Unified School District (CA): http://www.sfusd.edu/en/programs-and-services/restorative-practices.html