[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Restorative Practices in Schools is philosophically based in fostering relationships, strengthening understanding, repairing harm, and building strong communities. Identifying and addressing the needs and harms that occur when there is conflict in the school community by cultivating empathy and modeling conflict resolution skills serves students and adults alike.

Restorative Practices, when practiced with fidelity, create a safe space for connection and dialogue. When facilitated by trained practitioners, Restorative Practices lead to a more equitable and inclusive environment for students, staff, families, and community members.

The variety of practices or models used in applying this philosophy have been developed and honed by indigenous peoples and religious groups for centuries. They have been further developed and implemented around the world by academics, governments, schools, communities and practitioners for decades. Restorative Practices in Schools assist in building a school culture of relationship and respect. At the core, Restorative Practices are built on what are known as the 5 R’s: Relationship, Respect, Responsibility, Repair, and Reintegration.

The following definitions of the 5 R’s were written by Dr. Beverly Title in History and Operational Values of Teaching Peace[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

The 5 Rs

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Relationship – Restorative Practices recognize that when a wrong occurs, individuals and communities feel violated. It is the damage to these relationships that is primarily important and is the central focus of what Restorative Practices seek to address. When relationships are strong, people experience more fulfilling lives, and communities become places where we want to live. Relationships may be mended through the willingness to be accountable for one’s actions and to make repair of harms done.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Respect – Respect is the key ingredient that holds the container for all Restorative Practices, and it is what keeps the process safe. It is essential that all persons in a restorative process be treated with respect. One way we acknowledge respect is that participation is a restorative process works best when it is chosen by the participant. Every person is expected to show respect for others and for themselves. Restorative processes require deep listening, done in a way that does not presume we know what the speaker is going to say, but that we honor the importance of the other’s point of view. Our focus for listening is to understand other people, so, even if we disagree with their thinking, we can be respectful and try hard to comprehend how it seems to them.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Responsibility – For Restorative Practices to be effective, personal responsibility must be taken. Each person needs to take responsibility for any harm they caused to another, admitting any wrong that was done, even if it was unintentional. Taking responsibility also includes a willingness to give an explanation of the harmful behavior.  All persons in the circle are asked to search deeply in their hearts and minds to discover if there is any part of the matter at hand for which they have some responsibility. Everyone needs to be willing to accept responsibility for his or her own behavior and the affect it has had on others and the community as a whole.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Repair – The restorative approach is to repair the harm that was done and address underlying causes to the fullest extent possible, recognizing that harm may extend beyond anyone’s capacity for repair. Once the persons involved have accepted responsibility for their behavior and they have heard in the restorative process about how others were harmed by their action, they are expected to make repair. It is this principle that allows us to set aside thoughts of revenge and punishment. It is through taking responsibility for one’s own behavior and making repair that persons may regain or strengthen their self-respect and the respect of others.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Reintegration – For the restorative process to be complete, persons who may have felt alienated must be accepted into the community.  Reintegration is realized when all persons have put the harm behind them and moved into a new role in the community. This new role recognizes their worth and the importance of the new learning that has been accomplished. The person having shown him or herself to be an honorable person through acceptance of responsibility and repair of harm has transformed the hurtful act. At the reintegration point, all parties are back in right relationship with each other and with the community. This reintegration process is the final step in achieving wholeness.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]These five principles are a guide for restorative justice practices regardless of the setting. Building a restorative school culture based on relationships and respect among members of the school and community are the starting point for Restorative Practices in Schools. They enhance collaboration and problem solving, create a culture of inclusiveness and personal responsibility, and generate higher levels of engagement and satisfaction. Through the fostering of relationships and the building of respect, students and staff communicate better and discipline will be seen as supportive and reparative, rather than adversarial. The practice of building relationships and respect among all members of the school community are the proactive elements of Restorative Practices. Strong restorative culture makes responsible repair of harm the norm when disciplinary situations arise. This is done through fostering a shift in thinking from who broke the law or school rules, what law/rule was broken, and what is the punishment, to who was harmed, how we meet the needs of all involved, and how to repair what has been harmed.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]The impact of Restorative Practices on the school community will be much greater than a decrease in suspension, expulsion, and the increase of equity. A restorative school community increases student social and emotional engagement through:

  • Allowing all voices to be heard and respected
  • Understanding the impacts of behavior
  • Increasing responsibility for actions

Repairing harm caused by behaviors[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Restorative Practices differ from traditional and Zero-Tolerance policies in a variety of ways:

Punitive/Zero-Tolerance Restorative
Misbehavior defined as breaking school rules or letting the school down. Misbehavior defined as harm (emotional/mental/physical) done to one person/group by another.
Focus is on what happened and establishing blame or guilt. Focus on problem-solving by expressing feelings and needs and exploring how to address problems in the future.
Adversarial relationship and process. Includes an authority figure with the power to decide on penalty, in conflict with wrongdoer. Dialogue and negotiation, with everyone involved in the communication and cooperation with each other.
Imposition of pain or unpleasantness to punish and deter/prevent. Restitution as a means of restoring both parties, the goal being reconciliation and acknowledging responsibility for choices
Attention to rules and adherence to due process. Attention to relationships and achievement of a mutually desired outcome.
Conflict/wrongdoing represented as impersonal and abstract; individual versus school. Conflict/wrongdoing recognized as interpersonal conflict with opportunity for learning.
One social injury compounded by another. Focus on repair of social injury/damage.
School community as spectators, represented by a member of staff dealing with the situation; those directly affected uninvolved and powerless. School community involved in facilitating restoration; those affected taken into consideration; empowerment.
Accountability defined in terms of receiving punishment Accountability defined as understanding impact of actions, taking responsibility of choices, and suggesting ways to repair harm.

(Adapted from Ashley, Jessica and Kimberly Burke. Implementing Restorative Justice: A Guide for Schools. Chicago: ICJIA, 2009: 7)[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]A school committed to Restorative Practices is encouraged to develop an implementation plan(see Implementation Science http://nirn.fpg.unc.edu/learn-implementation/implementation- science-defined ), and execute it over an appropriate time period based on a readiness assessment, get key people who are interested trained, work toward whole-school engagement with regular use of the practices or restorative models and include restorative language and a brief explanation in student and teacher handbooks. Staff members and others in the school community experienced in Restorative Practices should mentor and train those who are unfamiliar with a restorative culture.  Communities of practice should be developed. As with any prevention/intervention structure, facilitators should be observed and evaluated on a regular basis.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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