Restorative Justice - Restorative Practices
Restorative Justice (RJ) is a model of addressing conflicts between members of a community. It is rooted in indigenous philosophies and traditions, notably the South African philosophy of ubuntu as demonstrated in the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Diné (Navajo) Nation’s justice system of Peacemaking. Because of these roots, Restorative Practices are predicated on core values listed below.
The term “restorative practices” can refer to a wide array of approaches, and focusing only on the term “restorative” can sometimes be misleading. The goal is not only to restore individuals and communities to harmony after they’ve been harmed, but to be intentional about building and maintaining community relationships in the first place.
A 2018 US Dept. of Education study found that Black male students are over 3 times more likely to receive suspensions and expulsions than White male students, and Black female students more than 5 times more likely than White female students. Exclusionary discipline practices do little to solve the root cause of conflicts, and they are often used to punish subjective infractions (like defiance or disrespect) rather than objective rules. Restorative Practices—when carefully and ethically applied—offer potent skills and empower school community members to participate in solutions, creating the potential for the community to recognize and reform institutional flaws that perpetuate inequities.
The Center for Dialogue and Resolution has been working in Lane County for 40 years, supporting family mediation, criminal justice diversion programs, teen court, and restorative justice. We are part of national and state networks of community dispute resolution centers and participate regularly in research and professional learning communities.
In a Restorative school, both prosocial and unwelcome behaviors are opportunities for learning and growth. Students in Restorative schools often experience greater belonging with their peers, and experience school staff as real people who are interested in their needs, not just their compliance. When students do make harmful choices, these instances are less likely to result in their exclusion, and more likely to give them a chance to make meaningful repair.
Restorative Practices give teachers the tools to bring their behavior support more into alignment with the rest of their teaching. They provide students with real practice in building listening skills, empathy, and expressing their needs appropriately, all of which circumvents much disruptive classroom behavior. Teachers also know that in a Restorative school, their own impacts and needs will be taken into account when the school responds to harmful student behaviors, and to staff conflicts.
With Restorative Practices in place, administrators have the tools to support positive behavior, and reform unwelcome behavior, in a way that truly supports every person involved: students, parents, teachers, and the school community as a whole. From chronic absenteeism to hallway fights, and everything in between, working restoratively means administrators no longer have to choose between taking the harm seriously and keeping the responsible student in school.
- Every individual in a community is inseparable from the community itself (i.e., there are no throw-away kids”)
- Educating participants in a conflict to understand the needs underlying their actions and the impact of those actions on their community is preferable to forcing them to adhere to rules or authorities they don’t understand.
- Conflicts can be meaningfully resolved only when the person(s) harmed have a voice in how that harm is repaired.
- School communities and learning rely on healthy relationships; Restorative Practices teach strong communication and social-emotional skills.
- Power-sharing on the part of those in authority increases trust, understanding and community buy-in.
- Social-Emotional Skills:
Non-violent communication/Affective Statements
- Reframing value-laden language
- Collaborative Problem-Solving
- Awareness of Community
- Understanding implicit bias
- Peer leadership and mediation
The "why" of Restorative Practices
(Video from Spokane Public Schools)
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