Practices and policies for implementing restorative justice within schools

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Author: Sandra Pavelka
Date: Feb. 2013
From: The Prevention Researcher(Vol. 20, Issue 1)
Publisher: Integrated Research Services, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,509 words
Lexile Measure: 1350L

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School administrators and teachers are faced with resolving disputes and misconduct in an expeditious and peaceful manner, while at the same time, addressing the needs of youth. Restorative justice is transforming the way that these decision makers are thinking about and responding to wrongful occurrences. This approach seeks to balance the needs of the victim and the school community with consequences and accountability for the wrongdoer.

Restorative justice models provide schools with the opportunity to improve school culture by addressing disciplinary standards and creating a forum for peaceful resolution of conflict and misbehavior. These models seek to determine the impact of the incident and establish a mutual, prescriptive agreement for resolving and repairing the harm caused by the wrongdoing (Pavelka, 2011). This article will first discuss the core principles of restorative justice and its applications in educational settings. Then it will examine necessary support systems for successful implementation and the potential challenges that schools face.


Restorative justice is a principle-based method of responding to crime and wrongful occurrences. It provides a new approach from which to address such issues as school discipline. The three core principles of restorative justice include;

Repair harm. Restorative justice requires that victims and communities are healed of the harm which resulted from the wrongful occurrence. Wrongdoers are held accountable for their actions and encouraged to make positive changes in their behavior.

Reduce risk. Community safety requires practices that reduce risk and promote the community's capacity to manage behavior. Citizens feel safe and are able to live in peace when wrongful behavior is prevented and controlled.

Empower community. Schools, along with the external community, must take an active role in and responsibility for the restorative response by collectively addressing the impact of the wrongdoing and the reparation. Students are empowered as active participants in the resolution process (see also Bazemore & Walgrave, 1999; Van Ness & Strong, 1997).


Restorative justice provides school administrators and teachers with collaborative solutions to disciplinary violations (such as conflict, misbehavior, bullying, and criminal activity). Four of the most popular restorative justice practices are outlined below and within Table 4.1.

Peer Mediation

Peer mediation is the most common and broadly accepted restorative justice model nation-wide (Bazemore & Umbreit, 2001; O'Brien, 2000). With this intervention, students mediate conflicts between two or more disputants. Using peer mediation requires utilizing conflict resolution skills and social competencies to reduce the threat of violence and increase peace in schools. The successful outcome of peer mediation is resolution of the conflict so all disputants benefit; the relationships are repaired and more often improved (Johnson & Johnson, 1995).

Peer/Accountability Boards

Peer/Accountability Boards require the participation of board members (primarily student peers), victim(s), and wrongdoer(s). The participants identify the impact of the offense, determine responsibility and accountability, and develop an individualized case plan for the wrongdoer (see the Case Snapshot in Box 4.1). The case plan is tailored to incorporate consequences and accountability, while also addressing the needs of the wrongdoer....

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A323659474