Restorative justice practices are steadily gaining recognition for their role in improving educational outcomes. Moving away from punitive disciplinary measures, restorative practices focus on fostering positive relationships and creating inclusive learning environments. This article delves into the impact of these practices on educational outcomes, while exploring the related history, case studies, and contributions from thought leaders in the field.
Historically, schools have relied on punitive disciplinary measures such as detentions, suspensions, and expulsions to maintain order. Research, however, has consistently shown that these measures do not contribute to long-term behavioral change and often perpetuate cycles of disengagement and low academic performance (Skiba et al., 2011).
Published Thought Leaders
Dr. Anne Gregory
Anne Gregory’s work has helped to establish the academic validity of restorative practices in schools, particularly their role in reducing racial disparities in discipline (Gregory et al., 2014).
Dr. Thalia González
Thalia González is noted for her interdisciplinary approach to understanding how restorative practices intersect with the social and emotional learning of students (González, 2015).
Dr. Mara Schiff
Schiff has focused on how restorative justice practices affect school climate, ultimately influencing academic outcomes (Schiff, 2013).
The Impact on Educational Outcomes
Reduced Suspensions and Expulsions
Restorative practices have been shown to significantly reduce suspension and expulsion rates, leading to increased time in the classroom.
Improved Academic Performance
Studies indicate a positive relationship between restorative practices and academic performance, including improved test scores and graduation rates (González, 2015).
Enhanced Social-Emotional Learning
Restorative practices also foster social-emotional skills like empathy and communication, which are crucial for academic success.
Case Study: Baltimore City Public Schools
Baltimore City Public Schools integrated restorative practices in 2008 to address high rates of suspensions. Over a 10-year period, suspensions dropped by 44%, and graduation rates increased from 61% to 72%. This can be attributed to the district-wide implementation of restorative circles, peer mediation, and community-building activities, which fostered a conducive learning environment.
Integration with Technology
Virtual platforms are emerging to facilitate remote restorative circles, particularly relevant in the era of remote learning (Daly & Merchant, 2020).
Many states are now incorporating restorative justice policies into their educational laws, providing a legal backbone to these practices.
Conclusion and Academic Insight
Restorative practices in educational settings are no longer just an experimental concept but an empirically-supported paradigm that has tangible benefits for educational outcomes. Published thought leaders like Gregory, González, and Schiff have established through their research that these practices can lead to significant reductions in disciplinary actions and improvements in academic performance (Gregory et al., 2014; González, 2015; Schiff, 2013).
As academia focuses on this subject, the conversation should evolve toward a more nuanced understanding of how restorative practices fit into broader educational ecosystems. One area ripe for exploration is how these practices can be integrated into teacher training programs. Can restorative justice be taught as a skill, much like lesson planning or classroom management, to produce educators adept at creating restorative learning environments? Further research is imperative for optimizing the use of restorative practices in educational contexts.
- Skiba, R. et al. (2011). Race Is Not Neutral: A National Investigation of African American and Latino Disproportionality in School Discipline. School Psychology Review, 40(1), 85-107.
- Gregory, A. et al. (2014). The Promise of Restorative Practices to Transform Teacher-Student Relationships and Achieve Equity in School Discipline. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 24(1), 12-29.
- González, T. (2015). Socializing Schools: Addressing Racial Disparities in Discipline Through Restorative Justice. In D. J. Losen (Ed.), Closing the School Discipline Gap: Equitable Remedies for Excessive Exclusion (pp. 151-165). Teachers College Press.
- Schiff, M. (2013). Dignity, Disparity and Desistance: Effective Restorative Justice Strategies to Plug the “School-to-Prison Pipeline”. Center for Civil Rights Remedies.
- Daly, K., & Merchant, B. (2020). Revisiting the Relationship between Retributive and Restorative Justice. Restorative Justice, 8(3), 359-384.