Why do we need Restorative Justice?
What is Restorative Justice?
RJ circles establish safe and nonhierarchical connections between the offender, victim, and other members of the community (Sherman et al., 2005; Walsh, 2015). Recent research has found that the presence of the victim and non-coercion of the transgressor increases perceptions of accountability and the finality of the transgression, as well as the perception of group members that the transgressor’s apology was sincere (Saulnier & Sivasubramaniam, 2015). Restorative procedures lead to greater acceptance of consequences by the offender, perceptions of consensus between all involved parties, remorse and empathy, participant satisfaction, completion of sanction agreements, and decreased encounters with police in the future (Saulnier & Sivasubramaniam, 2015).
What are some other ways RJ can help our students?
- It creates a safe space for students to share (Bintliff, 2014).
- It helps students build connections that matter (Bintliff, 2014).
- It helps students feel that their voices are being heard (Bintliff, 2014).
- It shapes and encourages pro-social behavior (Braithwaite, 1989; Saulnier & Sivasubramaniam, 2015).
- It reduces school violence (Walsh, 2015).
- It addresses the need for discipline while supporting students (APA, 2008).
- It increases student engagement, reflection, and opportunities for students to improve their behaviors (Wadhwa, 2014).
- It encourages a more equitable world for students of color (Wadhwa, 2014).
What are the steps for creating an RJ circle?
- Attend a RJ training.
- Invite students that have been involved in a conflict.
- Allow students to invite an ally.
- Create group norms that reinforce the feeling of safety. These can be written out and placed somewhere easy to see for the whole group.
- Use a talking piece that can be passed around to create a norm of participation. Only the individual holding the object is invited to speak, while other group members listen thoughtfully.
- Provide a short introduction to the group and share a story or a piece of text to set the tone.
- Ask reflection questions, such as “What were you thinking at the time?” “What have you thought about since?” “What impact has this incident had on you?” “Who else has been affected by this incident and in what way?” and “Is there anything else you would like to share at this time?”
- Participate as an equal member of the group.
- Invite students to be circle leaders after they have participated many times and know the process.
My school isn't implementing RJ. What can I do?
Implement it one-on-one
Restorative practices can be used as a framework for working with students one-on-one or in small group settings. Restorative practices, even if not done within the RJ talking circle, are considered an effective behavior management strategy. Cremin et. al. (2012) suggest using RJ questions with the offender and victim:
- What happened?
- What were you thinking at the time?
- What have you been thinking since?
- Who has been affected?
- What can you do/do you need to put things right?
Create a Restorative Atmosphere
Russell (2012) recommends setting the tone for restoration through the atmosphere in the classroom. A restorative classroom is positive and solution-focused and students feel that they have a stake in the outcomes of their behavior. They are able to regulate their emotions and have a positive impact on other students. Teachers can achieve this by using restorative language (i.e., not placing blame on students but encouraging reflection), restorative classroom expectations (i.e., expecting positive, community-building behavior from students), shared emotional vocabulary, social skills training, restorative circle time, restorative check in and out, and restorative treatment of student that need to be removed from the classroom for behavior problems (i.e., reflection sheets).
Keep restorative practices in mind when dealing with student conflict
Counselors and administrators can keep restorative practices in mind when confronted with community harm created by a student. Restorative practices balance accountability (e.g., punishment) and support (e.g., training, counseling) in a way that does not let the student “get away” with creating harm, but provides the resources and understanding for the student to not end up in the same situation again.
Keep the conversation going
Pupil personnel staff and administrators can keep the conversation going to use restorative practices more and more in our district. The more you talk about it, the more likely it is to become a mainstream program to help Schenectady students find a better path for their futures.
Change your mindset
Restorative practices have the power to transform the way we view our actions and the actions of others. Most RJ theorists would agree that this is the ultimate goal of restorative justice. It is to see ourselves as connected to a wider, global system in which our actions and the actions of our students affect others in ways we may not even imagine (Johnstone and Van Ness, 2007, p. 15).
Use it as a teaching tool
School professionals can use restorative practices as a way to learn about students’ understanding of the world around them and the content covered in class. Teachers may ask about the underlying principles of injustice in a particular article or text in order to gauge students’ learning. Bintliff (2012) uses these questions in her class to find if students are understanding class content and to guide future class discussions. For more classroom ideas, see Russell, 2012.
How are we using RJ in SCSD?
- A high school uses student-led restorative circles during lunch and is shifting towards the goal of reducing truancy and gang-related behaviors.
- A middle school dean of students uses restorative justice as a framework for working with students sent to the time out room.
- One middle school just completed a training series by Duke Fisher and hired staff with the aim to use in-school suspension in a different way.
- Earlier this year, a principal allowed a student to repay a broken window by working with the janitor for the amount of hours it would have taken to repay the debt.
- In-school suspension paraprofessionals are using a thinking sheet template for students to write down answers to restorative questions after they have transgressed against their community.
- An elementary school consistently uses restorative justice to solve student conflict problems.
Bintliff, A.V. (2014). Talking circles: For restorative justice and beyond. Teaching Tolerance. Retrieved from: http://www.tolerance.org/blog/talking-circles-restorative-justice-and-beyond
Braithwaite, J. (2000). Shame and criminal justice. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 42, 281–298.
Cremin, H., Sellman, E., & McCluskey, G., (2012). Interdisciplinary perspectives on restorative practice: Developing insights for education. British Journal of Educational Studies, 60(4), 421-427.
Johnstone, G. and Van Ness, D.W. (2007) The meaning of restorative justice. Handbook of Restorative Justice. Cullompton, Willan Publishing.
Karp, D., (2015). The little book of restorative justice for colleges and universities: Repairing harm and rebuilding trust in response to student misconduct. Good Books: New York, New York.
Russell, L., (2012).Implementation Packet. Restorative Justice for Schools. Retrieved from: http://www.esc20.net/users/0114/docs/SchoolImplementationPack%20RestorativeJustice4SchoolsUK.pdf
Saulnier, A & Sivasubramaniam, D., (2015). Effects of victim presence and coercion in restorative justice: An experimental paradigm. Law and Human Behavior 39(4), 378-387.
Sherman, L., Strang, H., Angel, C., Woods, D., Barnes, G., Bennett, S., & Inkpen, N. (2005). Effects of face-to-face restorative justice on victims of crime in four randomized, controlled trials. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 1, 367–395. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11292-005-8126-y
Wadhwa, A., (2014). Race, discipline, and critical restorative justice in two urban high schools. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 75(5A).
Walsh, E. (2015). Talking circles: An approach to discipline in schools. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing. 28(1), 60-61.