Restorative Practices in Schools

Restorative practices is a social science that studies how to build social capital and achieve social discipline through participatory learning and decision-making.

The use of restorative practices helps to:

  • reduce crime, violence and bullying
  • improve human behavior
  • strengthen civil society
  • provide effective leadership
  • restore relationships
  • repair harm

The International Institute of Restorative Practices (IIRP) distinguishes between the terms restorative practices and restorative justice. IIRP views restorative justice as a subset of restorative practices.

Restorative justice is reactive, consisting of formal or informal responses to crime and other wrongdoing after it occurs. The IIRP’s definition of restorative practices also includes the use of informal and formal processes that precede wrongdoing, those that proactively build relationships and a sense of community to prevent conflict and wrongdoing.

Where social capital—a network of relationships—is already well established, it is easier to respond effectively to wrongdoing and restore social order—as well as to create a healthy and positive organizational environment.  Social capital is defined as the connections among individuals (Putnam, 2001), and the trust, mutual understanding, shared values and behaviors that bind us together and make cooperative action possible (Cohen & Prusak,2001).

To download the entire article from which this is excerpted, please click here. 

¿Qué son las Prácticas Restaurativas para las Escuelas? (Spanish)
What are Restorative Practices in Schools? (English)
(Both Spanish and English translations are in this document.)

Punitive vs. Restorative Approach to School Discipline

Misbehavior is defined as an individual choice to break school rules or to deviate from established behavior expectations.Misbehavior is defined as harm done to one person/group by another as a result of a breakdown in community relationships and/or unconscious attempt to meet needs.
Focus is on what happened, establishing guilt, and fairly dispensing punishment to the wrongdoer(s).Focus is on understanding feelings, needs, and responsibilities of all impacted individuals and exploring ways to bring about community healing.
Discipline interventions are focused on making the harmful behaviors stop, using increasingly restrictive and/or exclusionary consequences.Discipline interventions aim to understand root causes of misbehavior and offer relational support for positive changes in behavior.
Discipline interventions decided on by one or more authority figures.Discipline interventions emphasize collaboration with direct victims and other impacted persons regarding how their needs can be met.
Accountability defined in terms of receiving punishment.Accountability defined as understanding impact of actions, taking responsibility for choices, and finding ways to repair harm and prevent future harm.
Imposed punitive consequences have the effect of shaming and stigmatizing students who have caused harm.Restorative processes offer an opportunity for students who have caused harm to understand the source of their behavior, take responsibility for their choices, and to learn and grow from the experience.
Whole School Circle Uses
Conflict Solutions Center