How to use restorative justice in your classroom and school (2022)

At the heart of restorative justice is the idea that everyone is inherently worthy and that our connection to one another is what matters most. So how can teachers and schools create a restorative culture where both individuals and the school community can thrive?

Monash’s Kristin Reimer researches the impact of restorative justice approaches in schools. Here she shares her insights into the key ideas behind the concept, and offers practical ideas on how to build it.

In many schools, restorative justice starts out as a tool to use in a crisis, a way of repairing harm. However, in classrooms and across schools, restorative justice is most potent when used proactively. It builds and nurtures meaningful and just relationships, and a strong sense of community.

What is restorative justice?

In a restorative approach, the inherent worth of each individual is recognised, and we seek to strengthen the essential ties that bind us to one another – in the classroom, school and the community.

Restorative justice is a framework that educators can use to create safe, supportive spaces in our schools. All members of the school learn to bravely engage in that community, and learn from honest – and sometimes difficult – conversations.

When relationships break down – as they will – it is about having fair responsive processes in place in which everyone can share their stories, hear the impact of their actions, repair the relational harm and figure out the best way forward, together.

It builds capacity – in students and in adults – to live in, understand and embrace the real world, with all its contradictions and complexities.

Fairholme College in Toowoomba has been using restorative justice proactively for more than 15 years.

(Video) Repairing our schools through restorative justice: Jean Klasovsky at TEDxWellsStreetED

Restorative justice is not a way to police bad behaviour

Restorative Justice is not a kinder, gentler way to punish or to achieve compliance from students. It is not a quick fix for behavioural – or any – issues. It is not a technique, a tool, a set of steps, or a one-size-fits-all package.

It is a way of being, thinking, interacting, teaching and learning – with relationships at the centre of all we do, every day.

When you walk into a school community where it is practiced, you can feel the difference.

Restorative justice should be used proactively

For a restorative culture to be built, restorative justice cannot be something that schools employ only when things go wrong.

Restorative principles – that everyone is worthy and that we are all interconnected – need to be intentionally and rigorously infused into all aspects of school life.

On a daily basis, students need to feel valued – no matter what – and to be actively involved in the building of meaningful school relationships. Otherwise, they will have little reason to trust the processes in place to repair those relationships, when conflict or harm occurs.

Proactive approaches to restorative justice look different from school to school, it is not a cookie cutter technique.

How to use restorative justice in your classroom and school (1)

Ways schools build a restorative culture

  • Deepen relationships with daily or weekly circle practices that involve the whole class. Circles can be used to build listening and speaking skills, share knowledge, practice for tests, or problem solve for issues affecting the whole class.
  • Teach and model communication skills so that students can both share and listen to diverse opinions. Embrace dissenting ideas as part of the learning process.
  • Ensure that school practices and policies are flexible, not rigid. This allows schools to respond to students and staff as unique and valued individuals.
  • Teach in a way that connects students with themselves and each other and, with that, to their curricula and the world. Make content relevant and engaging. Provide students with voice and choice in activities.
  • Explicitly teach skills and attitudes for students to be able to problem-solve on their own and as a collective. Implicitly model a problem-solving stance in classroom interactions and in the way you teach.
  • Be constantly curious. Ask questions. Don’t make assumptions. Listen for understanding. Help students to do the same – in their social relationships and in their schoolwork.
  • Treat conflict as natural, necessary and educational. Assure students that conflict will happen, and when it does, you will support them. Emphasise it’s something you will all learn from.
  • Put significant time into developing staff relationships that are honest, supportive and collaborative.
(Video) School Discipline: A Restorative Approach
How to use restorative justice in your classroom and school (2)

How to respond to conflict or harm using a restorative justice approach

In a restorative response, schools are reminded that when a student does something ‘against the rules’ the important thing is not that a rule has been broken.

Schools create rules for the purpose of helping us stay safe and live well together.This idea helps move the focus beyond rules to the people involved and the relationships that have been harmed.

Each situation is unique, each person involved has different needs, and each solution looks different.What remains the same is that schools seek to repair harm and make things as right as possible.

This is very different from a punitive approach that seeks to blame, shame and give a ‘wrongdoer’ what they ‘deserve’.

The difference can be seen in the questions that are asked when something occurs.

Retributive / Punitive justiceRestorative justice
What rules have been broken? What happened?
Who did it? Who has been harmed?
What do they deserve? What needs to happen to make things as right as possible?

Schools intentionally build a restorative culture through how they respond to conflict and harm. Here are examples about what it looks like in practice.

  • View discipline as an educational process in which students are supported to recognise mistakes, be accountable for their actions and learn for next time.
  • Move away from finding the wrongdoer and meting out punishment and towards understanding who has been harmed, how they have been harmed and what they need to feel safe and whole.
  • Provide transparent processes for students to bring forward matters of concern. It is important for students to know who to go to for help in dealing with issues and what sorts of conversations they might engage in when they access that help.
  • Use non-blaming restorative questions when discussing any behaviour or issue with students.
    • What happened and what were you thinking at the time?
    • What have you thought about since?
    • Who has been affected by what happened? How do you think they’ve been affected?
    • What about this has been the hardest for you?
    • What do you think needs to be done to make things as right as possible?
  • Deal with adult conflict (for example between staff and with parents/carers) in the same restorative way as with students.

What restorative looks like in practice: Fairholme College in Toowoomba, Queensland

“It’s just the way we do things around here,” says Dr. Linda Evans, Principal, Fairholme College, an independent all-girls school in regional Queensland.

As a school, Fairholme holds relationships at its core. All practices and policies stem from that core.

(Video) What is Restorative Practices in schools? 5 minute description

In classrooms, Fairholme builds relationships between students through daily circle time where students learn about one another, express their feelings and solve everyday issues.

Prep teacher Karen Reading says in circle time students learn to “own their feelings” and it helps them build a “tool box in their memories” to deal with conflict in the playground, kindly and respectfully.

In the boarding house, all conflicts are dealt with restoratively – by focusing on the harm caused and by recognising the girls need to learn ways to live well with one another.

As Dr. Evans says: “If you value relationships, I don't know how you can work in a punitive model when something goes wrong.”

Boarding supervisors speak of the “evolution” of the girls in the boarding house from year to year, with the older girls taking on the role of the facilitators in restorative conversations.

Between students, restorative knowledge is passed on. A Restorative Practices Committee made up of Year 12 students teaches younger students the 5 Fs of dealing with issues: Fess up, Face up, Fix it, Follow up, be Flexible.

Developing a network across Australia

Fairholme College is the first in a series of case studies that we are producing to highlight the experience of using restorative justice in diverse Australian schools.

The idea is to inspire and support other educators, build a network of restorative justice schools and showcase different approaches.

25 years ago, Australia was the first country in the world to use restorative justice in schools. Now it is a global movement and increasing in popularity. This is something to be celebrated.

Are you a school using restorative justice? Email the author,Kristin.Reimer@monash.edu, if you are interested in being a part of an Australian restorative justice network.

Are you a teacher interested in strengthening your understanding and use of restorative approaches? Kristin is running a 12-week professional development short course on restorative justice. Applications are open now.

(Video) Take Note | How Kansas City Schools Are Using a Restorative Justice Approach to Discipline

This project was supported by theNED Foundation and Monash University's Advancing Women's Research Success Grant.

References

Boyes-Watson, C. & Pranis, K. (2014).Circle forward: Building a restorative school community. St. Paul, MN: Living Justice Press.

Brown, M.A. (2018).Creating restorative schools: Setting schools up to succeed.St. Paul, MN: Living Justice Press.

Evans, K. & Vaandering, D. (2016).The little book of restorative justice in education: Fostering responsibility, healing and hope in schools. Lancaster, PA: Good Books.

Hendry, R. (2009).Building and restoring respectful relationships in schools: A guide tousing restorative practice. New York:Routledge.

Hopkins, B. (2011).The restorative classroom: Using restorative approaches to fostereffective learning.London: Teach to Inspire, OptimusEducation.

Reimer, K. (2019).Adult intentions, student perceptions: How restorative justice is used in schools to control and to engage. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

(Video) Circle Time: Understanding Restorative Justice and its Practices in the Classroom"

Thorsborne, M. & Blood, P. (2013).Implementing restorative practices in schools: A practical guide to transforming school communities. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Published 14 Nov 2019

FAQs

How do you think you can implement restorative practice in your classroom? ›

The best, and most practical way, to implement restorative practices in the classroom is to start small with some basic restorative skills that can be practiced in your classroom, and even in your life outside of school. These skills are listening, affective communication, and curiosity questions.

How is restorative practice used in schools? ›

A restorative school is one which takes a restorative approach to resolving conflict and preventing harm. Restorative approaches enable those who have been harmed to convey the impact of the harm to those responsible, and for those responsible to acknowledge this impact and take steps to put it right.

What are some examples of restorative questions? ›

Time to Think: Using Restorative Questions
  • What happened?
  • What were you thinking of at the time?
  • What have you thought about since?
  • Who has been affected by what you have done?
  • In what way have they been affected?
  • What do you think you need to do to make things right?
9 Jan 2012

How do you promote justice in the classroom? ›

Fostering a classroom community of conscience

The first way to promote social justice in the classroom is to create a community of conscience. This environment ensures that students' voices, opinions and ideas are valued and respected by their instructor and peers.

What is restorative justice in schools examples? ›

Verbally apologize to the teacher and fellow students with a promise to contribute more positively in the future. Request that peers hold him/her accountable. Spend a week assisting the teacher with classroom supervision or clean-up. Bullying younger students Sent to in-school suspension; have privileges removed.

What do restorative practices look like in a classroom? ›

Popular examples of restorative processes include affective statements, community-building circles, small impromptu conferencing, and setting classroom agreements or norms. In the Restorative Justice community, it can take three to five years to implement restorative practices within a school site.

How do you have a restorative conversation with students? ›

What are the important elements to have in a restorative conversation? Send a strong message of care to the student. Give the student an opportunity to say “what happened”/give the student a voice. Communicate to the student how it made you feel.

Which of the following is an example of a restorative practice? ›

Which of the following is an example of restorative justice in practice? Family conferencing; Sentencing circles; Victim-offender mediation.

Why is restorative justice good in schools? ›

According to the NEPC brief, research shows that restorative justice programs have helped reduce exclusionary discipline and narrow the glaring racial disparities in how discipline is meted out in schools.

What are the strategies of restorative justice? ›

Restorative Justice can be applied at different stages in the criminal justice system to complement existing interventions and sanctions. The principal models of Restorative Justice are Victim Offender Mediation, Family/Restorative Conferences, Reparation Panels and Circles.

What are restorative justice practices? ›

Restorative justice seeks to examine the harmful impact of a crime and then determines what can be done to repair that harm while holding the person who caused it accountable for his or her actions. Accountability for the offender means accepting responsibility and acting to repair the harm done.

What is a restorative classroom? ›

The Restorative Classrooms and Schools Process consists of weekly classroom circles combining group activities that teach core skills and concepts with immediate application of what is being learned to the real-world issues affecting participating students, teachers, parent volunteers, and the classroom community.

How do you integrate social justice in the classroom in a practical way? ›

How Can You Get Your Class Invested in Social Justice?
  1. Encourage your students to share their stories of diversity. Hold a cultural fair to let students highlight their backgrounds and histories.
  2. Make a Student Bill of Rights. ...
  3. Find examples of people close to your students' age. ...
  4. Remind them to start small.
13 Feb 2020

What can schools do to promote social justice? ›

Here are 5 ways schools can promote social justice in education:
  • Quality accredited courses.
  • Smaller, interactive learning groups.
  • Flexible, holistic education.
  • A safe environment to learn.
  • Progress reporting.
  • Did you know?
  • Join us at SSAT Birmingham, stand D1!
28 Nov 2019

What are the 5 R's of restorative justice? ›

A great way to understand the Restorative Justice Community Group Conference process is to look at it through the lens of the 5 R's: Relationship, Respect, Responsibility, Repair, and Reintegration (credited to Beverly Title, founder of Resolutionaries).

What is restorative justice in school setting? ›

Restorative justice is an alternate method of disciplining students that seeks to balance the process between being too permissive and being too punitive. The goal of restorative justice is to work with students (the victims and the accused) to come to a solution rather than simply handing down punishment.

How do you explain restorative justice to students? ›

What is restorative justice in schools? Restorative justice is a theory of justice that focuses on mediation and agreement rather than punishment. Offenders must accept responsibility for harm and make restitution with victims.

What is the most popular of the restorative strategies? ›

The most popular of the restorative strategies are victim-offender conferencing and community restitution. In many states, representatives of the victims' rights movement have been instrumental in setting up programs in which victims/survivors confront their violators.

What are restorative activities? ›

Research indicates that restorative activities like meditation, exercise, and spending some time in a natural environment can improve physical and mental energy while reducing the risk of developing diseases that are associated with stress.

What are the three restorative practices? ›

The three pillars of restorative justice are harms and needs, obligations, and engagement.

What are the 3 R's of restorative justice? ›

The three core elements of restorative justice are the interconnected concepts of Encounter, Repair, and Transform. Each element is discrete and essential. Together they represent a journey toward wellbeing and wholeness that victims, offenders, and community members can experience.

How do you start a restorative conversation? ›

Six Steps for a Restorative Conversation
  1. Get Permission for Time and Place. Restorative conversations should always be voluntary for everyone involved. ...
  2. Appreciate the Relationship. ...
  3. What Happened? ...
  4. Who is Impacted and How? ...
  5. What Can be Done to Repair the Harm? ...
  6. Offer Gratitude.
21 Nov 2019

What is the first step in restorative justice? ›

The process is about developing empathy, allowing each person to be heard in expressing their feelings, having their feelings validated, and ultimately reaching a resolution to the conflict or issue we are experiencing.

What is the most common form of restorative justice? ›

Some of the most common programs typically associated with restorative justice are mediation and conflict-resolution programs, family group conferences, victim-impact panels, victim–offender mediation, circle sentencing, and community reparative boards.

What is a key characteristic of restorative justice? ›

What is Restorative Justice? Restorative justice refers to “an approach to justice that seeks to repair harm by providing an opportunity for those harmed and those who take responsibility for the harm to communicate about and address their needs in the aftermath of a crime.”

In what situations is restorative justice used? ›

Restorative justice can be used in all types of cases: from petty crimes and misdemeanors to sex offenses, domestic violence and murder. In cases where the likelihood of being retraumatized is an issue, surrogate victims can be used.

How can I practice justice in school? ›

Print this Article
  1. Focus on Students. We often think about speaking on social justice and equity issues as an act of personal bravery. ...
  2. Work Together. Taking action can feel like something much larger than any one of us can handle. ...
  3. Be Yourself and Follow Your Passions. ...
  4. Speak Out. ...
  5. Be a Voice of Encouragement.
11 Aug 2016

How can restorative practices positively benefit students? ›

Restorative practices strengthen students' connections to both staff and other students, and that's why restorative practices support both prevention and response. Focusing on positive connections and support contributes to a positive school climate.

How is restorative justice effective? ›

Evidence suggests that some restorative justice programs—when compared to traditional approaches—can reduce future delinquent behavior and produce greater satisfaction for victims. Restorative justice programs seek to repair relations and end discord between youthful offenders and their victims.

What are the two most popular restorative justice strategies? ›

Repairing the Harm Caused by Crime

Two traditional criminal justice sanctions are used in restorative responses to crime: restitution and community service.

What are the 4 goals of restorative justice? ›

The Aims of Restorative Justice

Restorative justice is concerned with healing victims' wounds, restoring offenders to law-abiding lives, and repairing harm done to interpersonal relationships and the community.

What are the four 4 key of the restorative program? ›

As a treatment model, it includes four (4) categories, namely, behavior management, intellectual/spiritual aspect, emotional and social aspects, and vocational/survival aspects.

How are restorative circles used in the classroom? ›

Restorative circles in the classroom strengthen students' problem-solving skills. When conflicts do arise, you will be prepared to have honest dialogue with your students. Students learn to hold each other accountable, acknowledge each other's feelings, and accept each individual's needs.

How can you promote social justice and equity in the classroom? ›

8 meaningful equity in the classroom strategies
  1. Start with yourself. ...
  2. Model equity for your students. ...
  3. Be flexible with online learning. ...
  4. Address inappropriate remarks. ...
  5. Create an equitable classroom environment. ...
  6. Accommodate different learning styles. ...
  7. Examine your teaching materials. ...
  8. Give students a voice.
3 Jun 2022

What strategies does the teacher used to maximize the benefits of diversity in the classroom? ›

How do you Manage Diversity in the Classroom?
  • Get to Know Your Students. ...
  • Maintain Consistent Communication. ...
  • Acknowledge and Respect Every Student. ...
  • Practice Cultural Sensitivity. ...
  • Incorporate Diversity in the Lesson Plan. ...
  • Give Students Freedom and Flexibility.

How do we promote equality and social justice in our school? ›

Seven effective ways to promote equity in the classroom
  1. Reflect on your own beliefs. ...
  2. Reduce race and gender barriers to learning. ...
  3. Establish an inclusive environment early. ...
  4. Be dynamic with classroom space. ...
  5. Accommodate learning styles and disabilities. ...
  6. Be mindful of how you use technology. ...
  7. Be aware of religious holidays.
19 Mar 2020

How do you create an inclusive classroom? ›

Tips for Making Classrooms More Inclusive as Students Head Back To School
  1. Use inclusive language on all forms. ...
  2. Stock your library shelves with diverse books. ...
  3. Create a welcoming bulletin board. ...
  4. Develop clear classroom and/or school agreements. ...
  5. Prepare for teachable moments. ...
  6. Model inclusive language.
24 Aug 2018

What is an example of social justice in education? ›

There are many examples of social justice in education. At an administrative level, enacting policies that ensure equal treatment of all students in disciplinary situations would be one example.

What are the things you can contribute as a learner to impose practicing social justice? ›

15 Ways to Advance Social Justice in your Community
  • Examine your beliefs and habits. ...
  • Educate yourself about social justice issues. ...
  • Discover your local organizations. ...
  • Take positive action in your own community. ...
  • Harness the power of social media. ...
  • Attend demonstrations and protests. ...
  • Volunteer. ...
  • Donate.

How do you plan to inspire students in your classroom? ›

Strategies to Motivate Students in the Classroom
  1. Build relationships with your students. ...
  2. Use examples as often as possible. ...
  3. When possible, hand over control to the student. ...
  4. Use all types of technology available to you. ...
  5. Provide specific praise to students for little things and big things. ...
  6. Set up a token or points system.
4 Oct 2016

How teachers can inspire students? ›

How Do Teachers Inspire Students?
  • Always believe your students will succeed!
  • Try new things… ...
  • Be awesome and “cool”, not boring!
  • Teach your students “why” learning is so important. ...
  • Inspire by introducing them to heroes, old and new.
  • Make learning fun.
  • Share a mutual respect for each other.
1 Feb 2018

Why is social justice important in the classroom? ›

Why Is Social Justice Education so Important? There are many benefits to a pedagogical model that incorporates social justice education. Students gain a greater understanding of power dynamics, develop respect for cultures different from their own and learn how to affect positive change in their communities.

What is a restorative practice found in a trauma informed classroom? ›

Restorative Practices provide a structure for students to heal broken connections, express their feelings, and rebuild relationships with trusted adults so that they can move forward in a supported and positive way.

What is a restorative classroom? ›

The Restorative Classrooms and Schools Process consists of weekly classroom circles combining group activities that teach core skills and concepts with immediate application of what is being learned to the real-world issues affecting participating students, teachers, parent volunteers, and the classroom community.

How do you have a restorative conversation with students? ›

What are the important elements to have in a restorative conversation? Send a strong message of care to the student. Give the student an opportunity to say “what happened”/give the student a voice. Communicate to the student how it made you feel.

What are the three restorative practices? ›

The three pillars of restorative justice are harms and needs, obligations, and engagement.

What are the 4 essentials of building trauma sensitive schools? ›

Chapter 6: Essentials for Trauma-Sensitive Schools
  • Essential #1: To Help Students Feel Safe.
  • Essential #2: To Help Students Be Connected.
  • Essential #3: To Help Students Get Regulated.
  • Essential #4: To Help Students Learns.

Which of the following is an example of a restorative practice? ›

Which of the following is an example of restorative justice in practice? Family conferencing; Sentencing circles; Victim-offender mediation.

How do you have a restorative conversation? ›

Six Steps for a Restorative Conversation
  1. Get Permission for Time and Place. Restorative conversations should always be voluntary for everyone involved. ...
  2. Appreciate the Relationship. ...
  3. What Happened? ...
  4. Who is Impacted and How? ...
  5. What Can be Done to Repair the Harm? ...
  6. Offer Gratitude.
21 Nov 2019

What are the 5 R's of restorative justice? ›

A great way to understand the Restorative Justice Community Group Conference process is to look at it through the lens of the 5 R's: Relationship, Respect, Responsibility, Repair, and Reintegration (credited to Beverly Title, founder of Resolutionaries).

What is the most popular of the restorative strategies? ›

The most popular of the restorative strategies are victim-offender conferencing and community restitution. In many states, representatives of the victims' rights movement have been instrumental in setting up programs in which victims/survivors confront their violators.

What are restorative strategies? ›

The use of restorative strategies in the classroom is an innovative approach to conflict resolution. It involves repairing relationships, including restorative actions by the offender and forgiveness on the part of the victim. In the classroom, this approach is typically associated with bullying.

What are the 3 R's of restorative justice? ›

The three core elements of restorative justice are the interconnected concepts of Encounter, Repair, and Transform. Each element is discrete and essential. Together they represent a journey toward wellbeing and wholeness that victims, offenders, and community members can experience.

What is the first step in restorative justice? ›

The process is about developing empathy, allowing each person to be heard in expressing their feelings, having their feelings validated, and ultimately reaching a resolution to the conflict or issue we are experiencing.

How do you facilitate restorative justice? ›

What are the best practices for Juvenile Restorative Justice Dialogue?
  1. Adequate screening and preparation of parties.
  2. Voluntary participation of all parties.
  3. Guidance by third-party mediators / facilitators.
  4. Confidentiality agreed by all participants.
  5. Invitation for support people and family to be present.

What are the two most popular restorative justice strategies? ›

Repairing the Harm Caused by Crime

Two traditional criminal justice sanctions are used in restorative responses to crime: restitution and community service.

What is the most important part of restorative justice? ›

Restitution. The most widely used component of restoration is restitution, because the most obvious way to hold offenders responsible for the injuries they cause is for them to make restitution to the victims.

What is restorative justice in simple terms? ›

Restorative justice seeks to examine the harmful impact of a crime and then determines what can be done to repair that harm while holding the person who caused it accountable for his or her actions. Accountability for the offender means accepting responsibility and acting to repair the harm done.

Videos

1. Introduction to Restorative Approaches
(Resolve Consultants)
2. Restorative Justice in the Classroom | Restorative Practices | Using Affective Statements
(Miss Tierraney | Classroom Management)
3. Introduction to Restorative Justice
(SchoolTalk DC)
4. Implementing Restorative Justice at EB
(Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley)
5. Using Dialogue Circles to Support Classroom Management
(Edutopia)
6. Restorative Justice and School Culture - The Curley School
(Cat Carey)

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