What Is Restorative Justice In Schools

For hundreds of years, schools have operated on a fairly standard system of disciplining students that has been based on warnings, disciplines, suspensions, and expulsions. Unfortunately, over the years, this discipline has been meted out in disproportionate levels to minority students.

The practice of restorative justice in education began in the U.S. in the 1970s, but it has become more widespread in recent years. Restorative justice, fundamentally, is based on the concept of working with the “accused” (the student who has misbehaved) and the “victims” (the students and teacher who were subjected to the behavior) to arrive at a fair punishment.

How Does Restorative Justice In Schools Work
The practice of restorative justice in education is fundamentally different than traditional forms of school discipline in that it begins with all of the parties involved discussing the incident. Contrast that to the teacher immediately sending the offending student out of the classroom. In a restorative justice circle, the teacher becomes the facilitator. Contrast that to the teacher taking on the roles of judge and jury.

What Is Restorative Justice In Schools
More than just an alternative to suspensions, restorative justice is a shift in culture. And contrary to some misconceptions, restorative doesn’t absolve students who act out from responsibility or ensure that they escape punishment. Quite the opposite, in fact. Students who act inappropriately aren’t separated from other students with a trip to an administrator’s office. Instead, they have to accept responsibility for their actions, hear how their behavior impacted those around them, and accept consequences for their misdeeds.

Benefits Of Restorative Justice In Schools
There are many benefits to implementing restorative justice in the classroom and throughout a school or district.

Restorative justice in schools can:

  • reduce the number of disciplinary referrals and suspensions
  • help students accept responsibility for their behavior
  • give voice to students who have been affected by another student’s behavior
  • break the cycle of misbehavior, punishment, and more misbehavior
  • foster stronger relationships and respect among all students
  • improve relationships between students and teachers
  • empower teachers to manage their own classrooms

Fundamentally, restorative justice in teaching provides a systematic process for taking negative behaviors and experiences and turning them into positive, “teachable moments.”

Online Professional Development Course On Classroom Management
If you’re interested in learning more about restorative justice in education, we offer an online professional development course, Classroom Management: Restorative Justice In Action. This 3-credit, 100% online classroom management course qualifies for graduate level credits and has been approved for LAUSD salary points, through the Los Angeles Unified School District.