Organizations with a social justice mission are increasingly looking to adopt practices that promote healthy and safe communities and foster a sense of belonging and community support among participants. Rooted in the principles of restorative justice, restorative practices help traditionally hierarchical social organizations shift away from existing power imbalances that emphasize social control. Adopting restorative practices helps institutions create equitable relationships among members and emphasize individual and social accountability and engagement. Retribution and punishment give way to restoration and engagement in resolving conflict. Since the 1990s, there has been an increasing application of restorative practices in education, counseling, and other professional disciplines. Restorative practices are gaining popularity in educational settings such as K–12 schools and universities where they are used to establish proactive school discipline, a positive school climate, and connections within the school community. In direct contrast to the punitive, zero tolerance approaches that have been prevalent in schools, restorative practices target reparation, forgiveness, social-emotional learning, and positive behavior and coping strategies. A growing body of evidence indicates that restorative practices help school systems tackle issues such as student disengagement, bullying, truancy, youth crime, and school violence. Restorative practices are viable approaches, proven to reform racially biased school discipline policies and practices and to reduce school suspension and expulsion rates. Commonly used restorative strategies include community restorative circles, mediation, group conferences, perspective taking, community reparation boards, and healing circles.
The introductory works highlighted in this section provide an overview of restorative practices and are intended to help orient readers interested in this topic. “Restorative practices” is an umbrella term that encompasses theory, research, and practice across varied disciplines. Being a very broad term that is open to interpretation, there is a lack of universal clarity and common understanding about what a restorative practice truly is. As used in this article, the term describes the application of restorative values and principles to education settings. This article is limited to English-language publications that illustrate the origins of restorative justice, its applications to the field of education, key restorative techniques, data on its effectiveness, and its application to counter prevailing issues in education settings. Restorative practices gained popularity in the field of criminal justice and started to take root in the 1970s. Howard Zehr, known as the grandfather of restorative justice, originally developed the framework based on his mediation work with offenders and victims in judicial settings. Zehr 2014 describes his recent thinking about restorative justice and restorative practices, from a predominantly criminal justice orientation. Llewellyn and Howse 1999 identify voluntariness, truth telling, and face-to-face encounters as the essential elements of restorative practices. Van Ness and Strong 2015 provides an excellent overview of the theory and practice in this field. As the principles of restorative justice spread from criminal justice to other social sciences, such as education, social work, and counseling, restorative practices were conceptualized as a field that explored how societies achieved social capital and discipline through community participation and shared decisionmaking, as described in Wachtel 2013. Issues of school discipline and behavioral control have been at the forefront in education settings. Costello, et al. 2009 introduces school personnel to building communities in schools through restorative practices. Hopkins 2011 is an easy-to-read primer about how to build relationships in classrooms using restorative approaches. Thorsborne and Blood 2013 have published a practical implementation guide to transforming schools through restorative practices. In a follow-up to Thorsborne and Blood 2013, Burnett and Thorsborne 2015 address how restorative practices can be applied to meet the needs of students with special needs. Strategies drawn from the research literature on the effective implementation of restorative approaches in school settings are described in Evans and Lester 2013.
Burnett, Nick, and Margaret Thorsborne. 2015. Restorative practice and special needs: A practical guide to working restoratively with young people. London: Jessica Kingsley.
This book is a key resource on using restorative practices with students with special needs. The authors describe how to make adaptations for students with disabilities, so all students may participate fully in the restorative process. Case studies developed by practitioners illustrate the adoption of these strategies.
Costello, Bob, Joshua Wachtel, and Ted Wachtel. 2009. The restorative practices handbook for teachers, disciplinarians, and administrators. Bethlehem, PA: International Institute of Restorative Practices.
An excellent introduction for school administrators and teachers, this handbook introduces the reader to restorative practices, approaches, and methods for changing the culture of schools. The book is guided by the authors’ work in alternative schools for troubled youth, as well as subsequent work in public school settings.
Evans, Katherine, and Jessica Lester. 2013. Restorative justice in education: What we know so far. Middle School Journal 44.5: 57–63.
Seven principles that guide the application of restorative justice to education are outlined. The authors share peer-reviewed research that supports the application of restorative justice to schools, describe the obstacles, and suggest helpful strategies for implementation. Of particular importance is the recommendation to begin implementation with practices that are familiar to the school staff.
Hopkins, Belinda. 2011. The restorative classroom: Using restorative approaches to foster effective learning. London: Optimus Education.
This is an excellent, practical handbook for teachers and school leaders on how to make connections that build, maintain, and restore relationships and learning communities in schools. The book includes case studies and reproducible resources to facilitate implementation of restorative practices in schools.
Llewellyn, Jennifer, and Robert L. Howse. 1999. Restorative justice: A conceptual framework. Prepared for the Law Commission of Canada. Ottawa, ON: Law Commission of Canada.
A cogent analysis of the evolution and underpinnings of restorative justice practices, suggesting a conceptual framework that posits the duality of this concept in terms of the discrete wrong, while also acknowledging the context and people associated with this wrong. The authors explore how restorative justice processes can be implemented in practice.
Thorsborne, Margaret, and Peta Blood. 2013. Implementing restorative practice in schools: A practical guide to transforming school communities. London: Jessica Kingsley.
The authors provide a roadmap to becoming a restorative school. The book establishes criteria for the effective implementation of restorative practices in schools. Outcomes of restorative practices—and elements that ensure sustainability of these practices—are shared.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Handbook on restorative justice programmes. Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
This UNODC guide for officials working in programs to combat crime and conflict in their communities, prepared by Yvon Dandurand and Curt T. Griffiths, describes key considerations, values, measures, and programs based on the Vienna Declaration on Crime and Justice (2000) that advocated for the adoption of respectful and restorative justice policies, procedures, and programs.
Van Ness, Daniel, and Karen Heetderks Strong. 2015. Restoring justice: An introduction to restorative justice. Waltham, MA: Anderson.
This thorough introductory text combines theory and practice in the field. The authors make a case for a restorative approach to justice; describe the values, principles, and processes underlying restorative justice; introduce key concepts; and outline the steps toward building restorative systems of justice.
Wachtel, Ted. 2013. Defining restorative. International Institute of Restorative Practices.
The definition and key concepts associated with restorative practices is clarified from different disciplinary perspectives, i.e., social work, education, criminal justice, etc., along with the processes adopted in implementing restorative conferences, circles, and family group conferences.
Zehr, Howard. 2014. The little book of restorative justice. New York: Good Books.
Zehr provides an overview of the core philosophy and guiding principles of restorative justice and explains his thinking on restorative practices. The book orients the novice reader to the field and distinguishes between restorative and retributive approaches to criminal justice.
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