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Restorative Practices

What are Restorative Practices?

Restorative Practices (RP) are a framework that supports the idea that positive relationships are essential to maintaining community and repairing relationships when harm has occurred. According to Hanover Research, in K-12 education, restorative practices create a learning environment that addresses the needs of the whole student and strengthens the community to create and sustain positive school climates. 

When implemented effectively, such practices help students understand the consequences of their actions and take responsibility. However, the effectiveness of RP relies on the buy-in of all involved stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers, staff, and administrators.
The International Institute for Restorative Practices suggests that the “80/20 Rule” be used when implementing RP. 80 percent of the time, RP should be used proactively to develop community, while the remaining 20 percent would be responsive to specific situations when they arise through addressing and repairing harm. It has been observed that schools will have less effective outcomes if they use RP solely for school disciplinary purposes without building an RP-oriented community first. 
There is often confusion concerning restorative practices and often the term is used interchangeably with restorative justice. The idea of restorative practices developed mostly from the methods of restorative justice but there are notable differences. Many restorative practitioners view restorative justice as largely reactive, consisting of formal or informal responses to crime and other wrongdoing after it occurs. 
However, restorative practices are proactive. According to Ted Wachtel, restorative practices include the use of informal and formal processes that precede wrongdoing, those that proactively build relationships and a sense of community to prevent conflict and wrongdoing. We use restorative practices in Alexandria City Public Schools. 
Why do we use Restorative Practices?

We use RP to build relationships and restore broken relationships rather than simply assigning punishment. This is particularly important in the school setting, where students of color, those with disabilities, and other marginalized groups have been shown to be disproportionately targeted by exclusionary forms of traditional discipline such as suspensions and expulsions.
How do we use Restorative Practices?

Restorative Practices include both informal and formal approaches such as affective statements, affective questions, small impromptu conferences, group or circle, and formal conferences. Restorative Practices provide students and teachers with proactive methods and procedures for responding to issues of school discipline. RP adheres to the principle that every instance of conflict is an opportunity for learning and restoration.
How do students benefit from Restorative Practices?

Restorative Practices teach and model positive social skills such as sharing, listening, empathizing, and problem-solving, which helps to create emotionally and physically safe learning environments that promote respect, trust, and accountability. Most importantly, RP gives all students a voice.

Guiding principles

Positive Behavioral Supports and Interventions (PBIS), social and emotional learning (SEL), and restorative practices (RP) are used to systematically and intentionally build equitable learning environments in schools.

Positive relationships are essential to learning, growth, and building/maintaining a healthy school climate for all students and adults. Every instance of wrongdoing, conflict, or problem is a learning opportunity. Restore relationships when wrongdoing, conflict or problem occurs.

Staff Expectations

  • Teach and reinforce school-wide behavior expectations & routines through PBIS 
  • Explicit teaching of social-emotional skills using the RULER (Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating) curriculum
  • Use RP community circles to build relationships, foster community, and serve as the vehicle to facilitate PBIS expectations and the RULER curriculum.  At least one day a week must be dedicated to classroom circles.

Contact Information 

Gregory Baldwin
Restorative Practices Coordinator
Department of Student Services and Equity