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What is Restorative Practice?

Restorative practice is our discipline system adopted for the 2013-2014 school year. It is an approach that focuses on the needs of the victim, offender, and the whole school community instead of focusing on punitive punishment. The definition according to author John Braithwaite is as follows: “a process by where all stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been affected by the injustice and to decide what should be done

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to repair the harm.” This process was initially used for juvenile delinquents, but has since been shown to improve the overall community in schools.

  • Restorative practice is used to give a voice to each member of the community affected by certain behaviors of its citizens. The three main goals are: accountability, community safety, and competency development. Accountability gives wrongdoers the chance to see whom they have harmed and repair that harm. It helps to build relationships between the members of the community and empower them to keep one another safe. Lastly, restorative justice focuses on development of conflict resolution and social skills. It also addresses the underlying factors that lead youth to engage in negative behaviors in order to build strength in young people.
  • Research has shown that punitive punishment often leads to more damage, both for the victim and the offender. Restorative justice makes it possible to develop trusting and caring relationships between all members of our school’s community, to teach conflict resolution in a democratic and empowering way, and to promote student involvement in making amends following misbehavior.

Implementation can occur in many ways. Initially, teachers are asked to discuss classroom situations one-on-one with students as opposed to handing out detentions or referrals. In the case of reoccurring negative behaviors or “repeat offenders”, a “circle” is planned. These peacemaking circles bring together the people who have been affected by a student’s behavior. The people involved could be other students, teachers, parents, siblings, etc. A facilitator encourages each person in the circle to talk freely, and without interruption about his or her views of the conflict. It offers an opportunity to feel safe, emphasize respect and understanding, and empower all parties involved. Proceedings are asked to be confidential and facilitators are asked follow-up frequently with all involved to ensure satisfaction with the results.

  • Research has shown that schools too often rely on “being tough” and using punitive punishments that do not help students improve on their social and conflict resolution skills. We have chosen restorative justice as our tool to prevent conflicts before they escalate and to promote safety, respect, positive relationships, and inclusive behaviors. Our short-term goal is to utilize the peacemaking circles in circumstances that previously garnered detentions, suspensions, or demerits. Our long-term goal is a to create an environment in which community members feel empowered enough to deal with conflicts on their own, instead of allowing them to escalate into negative situations. Also, restorative processes create an environment in which members are more tolerant and understanding of each others’ unique strengths and weaknesses.
Download the Restorative Practice PDF here.