[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Restorative Practices in Schools occur on a continuum: from prevention to intervention, proactive to responsive, informal to formal, and relationship building to repair of harm. It is a full spectrum approach to building a safe and caring community that is relationship-based and repairs harm where all voices are heard and valued. Practitioners use and model these practices themselves and understand the larger system or context in which they work so the practices are culturally relevant. Participation in Restorative Practices is in theory, voluntary, however, it’s important to encourage a culture of full participation among students in this powerful community building practice. This may take some time with certain student populations.

Creating the opportunity for these students to be heard, until they trust they will be listened to, pays off over time. It is with regular use, i.e. practice that confidence and consistency in positive outcomes will occur.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Restorative Practices in Schools Continuum

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Definitions of some Restorative Practices along the continuum

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]All Restorative Practices should be deployed after training. The RJ Council does not endorse, support or otherwise recommend any particular training, trainer, curriculum or methodology. Some trainers are listed in the RJ Directory at http://www.staging-rjcolorado.kinsta.cloud/restorative-justice-practitioners/index.html[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Informal Restorative Practices



[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Includes the use of restorative language that addresses what happened and how the speaker was impacted or affected by the behavior. There may also be requests for changed behavior moving forward. The use of Non-Violent Communication to identify needs and address harm in the event of a conflict builds empathy and awareness between people. Using a structured restorative response and speaking from personal experience rather than global or superlative comments helps connect the involved parties.  These types of affective statements and affective questions, including identifying harms and repairs can be found in a variety of restorative dialogue or conversation techniques for communication. (See http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/aboutnvc/aboutnvc.htm)

Affective statements and questions, and questions identifying what happened, who was affected, and ways to repair harm, are useful for teacher-student conversations, hall conferences, and administrator interventions (in the lunchroom, passing periods, etc.) This approach is consistent with other Restorative Practices and prevents escalation of minor incidents.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Proactive Circles

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Proactive circles are preventative in nature and provide a focus that is not necessarily related to conflict or harm. This setting provides an avenue for community building, trust, authentic listening, empathy, and conflict resolution skill building that serves as a foundation for responsive Restorative Practices. Simply put, Proactive circles are facilitated processes in which a group gathers in a circle, preferably with no barriers (i.e. desks, tables etc.) and each person in turn has the opportunity to speak uninterrupted and be heard by the other members of the group. Examples include routine Proactive Circles, Connection Circles, and Peace Circles, preferably conducted weekly with the same group of students and teacher. Students can be facilitators of proactive circles, once they have learned the structure).[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Informal Conferencing

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Informal conferencing may also be referred to as Restorative Mediation is generally utilized for less serious school violations, with parties directly involved in harm or conflict. These are facilitated interactions designed to support the involved parties to identify what happened, who was affected and how and what they will do to repair harm. Examples of appropriate use of informal conferencing include (but not limited to) gossip and rumors, social media issues, teacher/student conflict, name calling, disruptive behavior in the classroom, verbal arguments, etc.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Formal [Generally reserved for more serious offenses]


Formal Conferencing

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Formal conferencing is similar in structure to Informal Conferencing but for more serious harms. These conferences usually include identified victim(s), offender(s), and interested/affected parties such as parents, community members, school staff or trained peers, and/or law enforcement. Examples of types of harms addressed in formal conferences include: theft, property damage, serious fights, drug violations, and racial slurs/threatening comments.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Responsive Circles

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Responsive circles should be utilized after proactive circles are established and routine. Responsive circles can address incidents that result in harm or conflict, or a change in the community that needs to be addressed. Proactive and Responsive circles follow the same structure, only the focus changes to the impact or affects resulting from an event(s). Responsive circles may also be known as Restorative circles, Solution circles, Intervention circles and other names. The common ground is they are held in response to an event. Responsive circles are effective in addressing an issue not directly related to harm, for example, “Today is Olivia’s last day at our school, let’s make a circle and voice what we like most about Olivia, and what we’ll miss about her when she’s gone.”[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

*Pre-conferencing (Informal and Formal Conferencing Precursor)

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Pre-conferencing is the preparatory phase of all conferencing models. It is the point of information gathering and airing of heated emotions so the facilitator(s) are prepared to hold the respect and safety of the restorative process that will follow. The goal is to prepare each participant for the conference. Pre-conferencing is an essential step for successful facilitation of these conflict resolution processes.

Arguably the most important component of informal and formal conferences pre-conferencing sets the restorative tone. The facilitator should never underestimate the value of a thorough pre-conference of each participant. Pre-conferences often uncover other information about the participants, such as difficult family events, that provide context. However, conferences should focus on the most recent event that caused the conference to occur.

Before bringing people together for a conference, it is necessary for the facilitator to meet with each party separately to ensure readiness and willingness to participate. Each pre-conference allows the facilitator to gain valuable insight into how the violation/incident occurred, build rapport with the parties, explain and set expectations for the restorative conference process, give reassurance of the facilitator’s role and answer any questions. The timing of the pre- conference and the subsequent conference is not prescribed. Factors such as heightened emotions, teacher and/or facilitator availability, potential for escalation, etc. are factors to consider when determining how and when to pre-conference and follow up with the informal or formal conference. Frequently in school settings, the pre-conference and conference occur the day of, or within a few days of the event.

Questions pertaining to what happened, who has been affected, what the participant can take responsibility for, and a solution going forward can be asked directly or gleaned through the conversation. Participants will be briefed on the norms of respect, mutual empowerment, no cross talk, active listening, and cultural sensitivity.

If anyone risks re-victimizing a participant, or is unable to take some measure of responsibility, the facilitator may make the decision to not proceed with the restorative conference but rather use more traditional school responses.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]



  • Attendance Mediation
  • Reintegration after a Suspension or Extended Absence
  • Integration of new students/Saying goodbye to departing students
  • Addressing a significant local, national or global event (school shooting, natural disaster, death of a student, )


Basic Circle Process Outline


  • State the purpose of the Circle
  • Discuss Ground Rules (suggested examples are):
    • Listen and speak with respect
    • Only tell your truth
    • Use school-appropriate language
    • Respect people’s privacy; only tell your own story
  • Use of a talking piece
    • Significance of the object used
    • Speak only when you have the talking piece
    • No cross talk of any kind, verbal or nonverbal
    • Facilitator may need to speak to move the process along
    • Share the time fairly
    • You may pass and we’ll come back to you
  • Questions / Rounds
  • Closing the Circle


Willing Participation

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Voluntary participation is universally accepted as a primary principle of restorative justice. It shifts away from the punitive or adversarial response to focus on acceptance of responsibility, speaking the truth, and repair of harm. Creating a positive restorative school culture may necessitate adult encouragement for student participation. Especially in the case of proactive circles, participation empowers students to hear their own voice while others listen, and provides an opportunity for personal growth.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]


[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Confidentiality should always be stressed. There may be exceptions to confidentiality if the information is determined to be a future threat to self or others. Mandatory reporting roles apply in Restorative Practices, and adults should clarify this role with students.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]


[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]In particularly emotional situations, facilitators should provide ample opportunity for debriefing of all parties following a restorative practice/justice intervention. It is imperative for self-care that all participants have an opportunity to ask questions, make comments and work through any issues or concerns that have come up for them.  Generally, the more serious the offense, the more need for debriefing. Keep that in mind, facilitators should understand that each individual comes to RJ/RP with their own backgrounds and experiences which may affect them during and following an intervention.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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