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School Case Studies Demonstrate 'Restorative Justice' Approach

Restorative Solutions, a nonprofit organization in the U.K., offers a 25-page guide to help schools implement “restorative approaches” that manage student behavior and conflict, address bullying and build community cohesion.

These approaches, similar to what is often called “restorative justice” or "alternatives to suspension" in the U.S., are an increasingly popular strategy for reducing student suspensions and preventing contact with the criminal justice system, or disrupting the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Restorative Approaches in Schools: A Guide for School Managers and Governors is based on researchers’ evaluation of restorative work in schools in England. A wealth of evidence shows that restorative approaches, as part of a comprehensive effort to foster social and emotional learning, help develop more resilient and self-regulating learners, thus creating positive learning environments.

The guide describes the underpinning philosophy of restorative approaches, gives advice on implementation and through case studies, shows the impact on individuals, classes and school-wide policy and practice.

A restorative approach is a paradigm shift in the language educators use to address conflict and inappropriate student behavior. In schools, we usually revert to the default mode of: What's happened? Who is to blame? And what do I need to do to punish the wrongdoer? Yet restorative questioning allows those involved to tell their story and be heard in a way that assures no pre-judgment. Restorative language then builds on 'affect' and feeling by asking 'Who has been affected by what has happened and in what way?' This helps to develop self-awareness and awareness of the feelings of others.

The restorative approach helps students find a solution that is meaningful and meets the needs of those harmed. It is solution-focused, personal and more likely to build constructive and empathic bridges. The restorative approach becomes a ‘way of being,’ once all members of the school community see incidents of harm as ‘teachable moments.’

Read the full guide.

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