How to Integrate Restorative Practices, Justice & Discipline with PBIS


An integral part of developing successful school spaces is creating structures that include positive behavior reinforcements as well as appropriate responses to challenges in the classroom.

An integral part of developing successful school spaces is creating structures that include positive behavior reinforcements as well as appropriate responses to challenges in the classroom. To support the implementation of Restorative Practices, schools can rely on Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to provide a school-wide system for behavior management. As a result, more learning takes place because student behavior is effectively managed.

The PBIS framework helps staff build programs that are proactive in addressing discipline. PBIS provides a structure for rewarding positive behavior choices instead of only punishing negative choices. Schools that introduce Restorative Practices to address discipline create a positive community where negative behavior choices are addressed with the goal of reinstating the healthy school culture.

Restorative Practices focuses on building relationships that were harmed or violated because of student’s behavior. Different from traditional discipline programs, Restorative Justice is a method for communicating behavior outcomes and supports students in reconnecting to the school’s community and PBIS system. Together the Restorative Practices and discipline methods inform the school-wide behavior system. They shift the nature of discipline in the school and promote learning outcomes.

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

Integrating Restorative Practices, Justice & Discipline

Restorative Practices are rooted in empathy and community with a focus on building relationships. Restorative justice provides a set of tools to address the harmful behavior and sets up each person involved to mend the relationship. This can be helpful after a conflict or if a student needs to re-enter the classroom after time away.

Leveraging the PBIS framework allows for school personnel to carry out Restorative Practices with a whole school approach. The PBIS framework helps reiterate the behavioral supports needed to sustain and promote the social culture of the school. Both Restorative Practices and PBIS focus on proactively creating a positive school culture and community.

Student input is also important when using the PBIS framework and integrating it with Restorative Practices to create a community. Administration uses the PBIS framework to set clear rules and expectations that are communicated consistently to help reinforce positive behaviors. When those expectations are not met, issues are handled in a restorative way.

Most importantly, in a restorative approach to PBIS, the efforts to repair broken relationships with empathy must be thoughtfully executed. Teachers and students are trained to engage in problem solving conversations around behavior issues in search of an effective solution. The community feels and acts responsible to each other and ultimately to the learning that takes place in the school. To sustain these efforts, teachers must consistently respond to behavior thus impacting the school culture.

Evidence of integrated Restorative Practices, Justice and Discipline:

  • Healthy peer to peer relationships
  • Healthy student to staff relationships
  • Clear responses to harmful behaviors that are aligned to the broader behavior structures
  • Accountability measures for students and staff that directly address the specific misbehavior
  • Inclusive behavior management practices that are supported by strong communication

To increase positive outcomes for kids and improve student behavior, there must be a combined effort using Restorative Practices and positive proactive supports. The schoolwide plan to respond to negative behaviors promotes communication and seeks to find a resolution that works for each person involved. This allows for the group to limit the time spent on punitive responses and looks toward re-engaging the student into the learning space.

When these efforts are aligned to the PBIS framework, it benefits both the staff and students in the school. Together, they work to provide a structured and proactive behavior management system. This allows for the school community to be responsive to the experiences of the students and relies on healthy communication practices. Concentrated efforts to introduce Restorative Practices expectations will start to build on the school culture. Staff and students will be able to focus more on learning and less on behavior distractions. It is a positive way to create and sustain a positive school community.