Promoting psychological and physical safety in schools is important for learning and sets the tone for positive school culture. School leaders who are working toward improving the culture of the school should be providing strategic interventions to address student discipline. For instance, school leaders can adopt the use of Restorative Practices in schools as a way to address student behaviors. This process involves all stakeholders and focuses on learning from each other instead of punitive punishment.
Restorative work in schools is done best when there is collaboration and support from school administrators, staff and students. Having everyone see and understand their responsibility to the school community is an important part of the practice.
→ Read How a DC High School Transforms Lives Using Data-Driven Restorative Practices
Restorative practices provide a protocol for addressing student behavior that can be implemented schoolwide. By using this approach, school leadership and staff are focused on less punitive responses to behavior and find more ways to engage students positively in the school community.
4 ways to practice Restorative Justice in Schools
Create Shared Values
Shared values within the school can include norms or practices that uphold the school community standards. This may include language, habits and expectations for students, staff and families that promote a safe and positive school culture. Once values are identified it is appropriate to review and question them to ensure that everyone is clear on what they are and why they exist at your school.
Restorative practices are rooted in community engagement and using these techniques encourages participants to hold each other accountable. Accountability is evident in the way students and staff engage with each other. This is done by using shared values and language to advance communication. If everyone agrees on and practices the values and behaviors, they know when someone is not doing their part. This may occur in a classroom where a student corrects another student’s behavior or when a teacher reminds students of the learning environment rules. I am always excited to see how students and faculty hold themselves accountable to their learning space. As students and staff continue to use restorative practices, their ability to communicate and practice with each other grows.
Community circles bring together students, staff and support to proactively create a positive school community. These circles allow for everyone to speak and share and encourage open communication. There are some cases where the circle begins with the shared values or meditation so participants are grounded before beginning.
Support During Challenges
In addition to using circles proactively, they are also a tool that can be used when students are experiencing challenges. As a response to a behavior, restorative circles can be used as a way to provide safe spaces for all involved parties. In this instance, students will have already had an experience with how they work because schools use them regularly. Circles and other conferencing practices bring groups together and encourage communication.
Evidence of Restorative practices in schools vary. There are a number of ways for school communities to implement these practices and as a result they may see a shift in student behavior, classroom engagement and learning outcomes.
Below are a few outcomes of effective Restorative Practices:
- Positive and healthy peer-to-peer relationships
- Student agency and self-advocacy
- Engaged students and staff
- Positive relationships between students and staff
- Reduction in referrals and suspensions
These examples are important to understand the impact restorative practices have on student outcomes and behavior. Restorative practices become an integral part of the school culture and ultimately shapes the school community and advances learning for students.
As school leaders consider ways to advance their school culture and leverage data to inform their practice, there are opportunities to leverage great technology platforms like Kickboard. In fact, Kickboard and Restorative Justice practices are aligned. Check out: 3 Reasons Restorative Practices and Kickboard are Good Friends! The connection between Kickboard and Restorative Justice practices is a great partnership. Together they support leadership goals and support school development.