Most schools have a system of punitive or retributive punishment where students who break a school rule are punished with detention, suspension, or similar consequence. Critics of these types of punishment point out that they can disrupt learning, bring students into early contact with the juvenile detention system, and fail to teach students de-escalation skills. More and more schools are now turning to restorative justice practices which focus on students taking accountability for their actions, making amends for wrongs done, and conflict mediation. Many of these practices have roots in indigenous cultures. Additionally, rethinking punishment practices in schools is an important part of correcting pervasive racial inequities in how students are disciplined. Studies have shown that schools see a reduction in behavioral issues after implementing a system based on restorative justice. Restorative justice works best when implemented on a whole school level, but teachers can implement restorative practices at the classroom level as well.
There are many different resources available online for teaching students with restorative justice practices. The materials below will give you everything you need to implement this strategy into your classroom.
- Respect Agreement Lesson Plan: The first step in the restorative process is creating a respect agreement with teachers and students. This is an important step to include both students and teachers into the creation of classroom behavior guidelines. Then, when behavioral issues arise, the agreement can be referred back to. This lesson includes a visual of the respect agreement chart.
- Using restorative circles
- This manual details how to use restorative circles in the classroom.
- This lesson from The Center for Restorative Process introduces students to the process of using restorative circles.
- Teachers Pay Teachers has a number of lessons and resources for using restorative circles.
- This Restorative Practices Lesson Guide from the Open Society Institute of Baltimore included a collection of different lesson plans for implementing restorative circles in the classroom
- Peer mediation This post is a step by step guide in teaching students how to be peer mediators in their classrooms.This peer mediation guide was published by the NYC Commission on Human Rights.
- This collection of resources from Restorative Justice Discipline includes lessons and guides on all the aforementioned processes and more.
- These articles on restorative racial justice and restorative justice in schools from the Center on Court Innovation detail the importance of restorative justice and the effects of a restorative justice program implemented at underserved schools in Brooklyn, NY.
- This report is a review of the current research on restorative justice in schools across the US.
- This article discusses the potential issues of restorative justice systems being implemented incorrectly or without enough resources and support. Studies demonstrate that restorative justice programs only have a positive impact on behavior if done correctly and otherwise could actually have negative effects.
- This article from We are Teachers is a helpful overview of restorative justice practices for teachers looking to implement them in their classrooms.
- This toolkit from the Oakland Unified School District includes resources for implementing a whole school model of restorative justice.
Restorative justice practices in schools have shown significant effects on student behavior as well as preventing learning loss and early contact with the punitive system. It can also serve as a step in correcting historical racial inequities in school discipline. However, proper training and resources are necessary for these programs to be effective and not lead to further harm. Whole school and whole district approaches have been shown to be most impactful, but there are steps that teachers can take at a classroom level as well.
- Center for restorative process pinterest board
- Compilation of research on racism in discipline and what has worked to correct it.