RJ in Schools


Restorative Justice and Schools.

Schools and teachers are increasingly expected to address behavior issues derived from trauma, mental health challenges, and other influences. Punitive measures such as suspensions and expulsions have led to a documented “school to prison pipeline.” RJ moves away from an emphasis on managing misbehavior toward strengthening relationships, promoting individual social and emotional learning, and enhancing understanding and empathy. Students in restorative classrooms become empowered with tools of effective communication and active listening. They learn to collaboratively solve problems, a skill that will likely enhance their success in life and work.

Because of its focus on relationship building, students, teachers and administrators in school systems that faithfully implement restorative practices can benefit from a stronger sense of community and improved school climate. For RJ programs to be successful, 80-90% of time and energy should focus on the community-building end of the restorative practices spectrum.  

These processes include:

  • “Check-in” Circles that give students a chance to express hopes, fears, and challenges
  • Celebration and Gratitude circles
  • Collaborative Problem-Solving Circles

Restorative Justice practices can be used to effectively address truancy and disruptive or harmful behavior in schools. In cases of harm, the person who causes harm learns to take responsibility for the impact of their actions on others.  Rather than being ostracized by the community, they are instead supported in their effort to repair, atone and reconnect with their community. Those impacted by harmful behavior are assisted in being heard and expressing their need for reparation. All parties can restore relationships and become more deeply connected to the community.

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