Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Restorative justice empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own, and it's growing in practice at schools around the country. Essentially, the idea is to bring students together in peer-mediated small groups to talk, ask questions and air their grievances. (This overview from Fix School Discipline is a wonderful primer.)

For the growing number of districts using restorative justice, the programs have helped strengthen campus communities, prevent bullying and reduce student conflicts. And the benefits are clear: Early adopting districts have seen drastic reductions in suspension and expulsion rates, and students say they are happier and feel safer.

In practice, these programs vary by district, but respect and responsibility seem to be common themes. Here's a look at restorative justice programs in a few schools:

Oakland Unified School District

Oakland Unified School District first implemented its restorative justice program at one school in 2007. Since then, it has expanded, and the district has seen promising reductions in suspensions, in addition to increased attendance.

The program is broken down into three tiers. In the first, entire classrooms come together in community-building circles to talk about problems and voice their concerns, which encourages peer-to-peer respect. For specific conflicts, though, smaller groups are used, which bring together the harmed student, the person causing the harm, and a group of their peers or adults. A third tier is reserved for student reintegration following suspension.

Ypislanti High School

The restorative justice program at Ypislanti High School engages students in peer mediation in a "conflict resolution center." These interventions are designed to help resolve conflicts before they turn into bigger issues. For conflicts that have already happened, say a fight, all students involved as well as their peers participate in a "restorative circle," which allows the student who has caused the harm to hear the views of peers.

Guides for Successful Implementation

Of course, successful restorative justice programs require some planning. For those interested in taking those first steps, these guides provide plenty of insight.

Other Resources and Articles

Comments (3)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.