How Restorative Practices & Justice in Schools Improve Culture & Climate

Sep 14 12PM
How Restorative Practices & Justice in Schools Improve Culture & Climate

The terms “Restorative Justice” and “Restorative Practices” are often used interchangeably but there is a slight difference in the two movements. Restorative Justice began in judicial systems, frequently used by courts and law-enforcement to allow victims and offenders to make amends. This approach fosters empathy and community through problem solving.

Restorative Practices get its roots from Restorative Justice. Restorative Practices are used by schools as a proactive approach to school discipline. Restorative Practices also fosters empathy and community, in addition to building relationship skills.

→ Read about how a Washington, D.C. high school uses Kickboard with their Restorative Practices program

School Discipline In The United States

The 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection found that:

  • 2.8 million students received out-of-school suspensions during the academic year
  • Black preschool children are 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than white children
  • Black students, K-12, are 3.8 times more likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions compared to white students
  • Students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions as students without disabilities

How Does Restorative Practice & Justice Help

These statistics are surprising and they highlight an area of school discipline that needs improvement. Restorative Practices improve school culture and climate because the focus is on relationships rather than behavioral compliance. As a classroom teacher I found that behavioral challenges frequently occured in my class when students were disengaged in the content or when they were not getting along with other students. Through the use of Restorative Practices schools and classrooms foster healthy relationships which improve school culture and the overall learning environment. Simply put, when students are given the opportunity to develop healthy relationships with their teachers and other students, coupled with high-quality instruction, it is less likely that they will misbehave.

One Restorative Practice used to build relationships is the Restorative Circle, where educators and students build a safe community. During circle time, participants sit in a circle to discuss group issues or reflect on their feelings. Restorative Circles can be used to check in about your day, resolve conflict, or for academic conversations, giving students the opportunity to create a community of mutual respect for everyone.

Restorative Circles can also be used as a time to encourage the social and emotional competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and and responsible decision making. Restorative Practices have been shown to reduce referrals, suspensions and expulsions; increase instructional time; improve teacher morale and retention; improve academic outcomes; and reduce disproportionate referrals for minority students.

Common school discipline use punitive practices, but the correlation between punitive behavior systems and the criminal justice system has damaging implications for many students throughout the United States. Much like the criminal justice system, many school behavior systems focus on punishing students with the goal enforcing safe behaviors. Students are often removed from the school community through suspensions and expulsions. Conversely, Restorative Practices do not focus on simply punishing students for misbehavior but rather teaching them how to recognize their emotions, problem-solve, empathize, and restore their community.

I have used Restorative Practices in my classroom for the past two years. The use of the framework completely changed how I relate to my students and how we relate to each other. In the traditional way that school discipline is set up, students sometimes forget that educators are part of the emotional community and not just the leaders of the classroom. Restorative Practices value the feelings of everyone equally. In my class we started our days off with a check-in circle and missing a day was not an option! Restorative Practices allowed my students and myself to articulate our feelings and hold each other accountable for the way we treated our community. It has completely changed the way that I teach.

Here at Kickboard we have seen school culture transform because of effective implementations of Restorative Practices. We also have the tools and resources to support your school team as they begin to implement Restorative Practices as a way to promote positive school culture. Click here to learn more about how Kickboard can support Restorative Practices in your school.


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