....restorative practices and behaviour management solutions

Restorative Practice and Restorative Justice



Restorative Practice is based on the philosophy of Restorative Justice. This philosophy provides us with a framework which is underpinned by values and beliefs that asks us to approach wrongdoing differently. This approach is called Restorative Practice and the focus is about community, relationships and healing. This Restorative Justice framework is also about real accountability; according to people and their needs, rather than accountability according to rules and codes of conduct. For some schools this will be a very different model of justice in comparison to what they have been using. This more traditional model of justice is about wrongdoers getting their just desserts sometimes from a zero tolerance position.

Restorative Justice philosophy encourages schools and organizations to shift their thinking from a traditional model of punishment for wrongdoers to one of education, accountability and meaningful change. Restorative Practice, the hands on element to Restorative Justice, assists schools to put into practice important values and beliefs that emphasize rights and responsibilities, positive relationships, productivity and cooperation and at the same time meeting individual needs within their community. One of the persuasive outcomes for restorative schools is the alignment of student discipline practice with school values.

Restorative Justice philosophy holds that human beings are happier, more productive and cooperative, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them. We maintain that the punitive and authoritarian to mode and the permissive and paternalistic for mode are not as effective as the restorative, participatory, engaging with mode. Further, we believe that the most favorable environment for human beings is one which allows for the free expression of emotion, minimizing the negative and maximizing the positive.

Restorative schools in general experience increased levels of cooperation and compliance. Restorative classrooms experience improved relationships and learning outcomes, and report far less disruption. Teachers working proactively in their classrooms and in the playground view wrongdoing as an opportunity for learning about how to live a decent life; they see wrongdoing as an opportunity for reflection and reinforcement of boundaries, limits and expectations. In other words inappropriate acts are viewed as teachable moments.

The principles of Restorative Justice provide schools with a set of guidelines and responses to manage even the most confronting behaviours. When we put relationships and individual needs at the core of our student discipline policy we provide opportunities for dialogue that strengthens the sense of community where emotional skills and intelligence are developed and individuals are given the opportunity to take responsibility for the harm done and to make things right.


Restorative Justice in Schools (taken from the Pocket Book – Restorative Practice found in Books link)

In understanding why the word justice might have some bearing on the way a school manages its discipline policy and practices, it’s important to know some of the history of the criminal justice system as we know it today.

Our current criminal justice system regards crime as a violation against the state. It requires that someone is held accountable (found guilty) and that the job of the state is to administer a punishment that fits the crime. Many schools have, over time, adopted a parallel philosophy - when young people break the rules of the school, they must be held accountable and the school administers an appropriate punishment (often called “consequence”). In both cases, the sanctions have usually been decided in advance, and the law books, legislation and school policies are consulted to choose the appropriate consequence.

This approach to doing justice is relatively new in the history of mankind and can be traced back to the Norman invasion of England in the 11th century. In rising to the challenge of bringing peace to a country beset by civil strife, William the Conqueror declared wrongdoing/crime as a “disturbance of the king’s peace”. In doing so, the king (and therefore the state) became the primary victim of the crime. The real victim’s needs were ignored, and justice was administered by officials on behalf of the king/state. The parallel in schools is obvious. Schools are mini “states”. The “officials” are the Principal, DP, Dean and the Class Teacher, each with varying degrees of authority to dispense suitable consequences.

There is however, a remarkable reform occurring in the criminal justice system, as victims, after long being invisible, have found their voice. This has occurred as more ancient practices are being rediscovered. Some countries have been quicker off the mark than others, with restorative justice programs usually being first adopted to divert young people away from court, and therefore avoiding the slippery slopes into the criminal justice system and a life of crime. Modern restorative justice can be traced back to victim-offender “encounters” in the mid 1970’s in Canada and the USA.

But even these early efforts are owed to a variety of cultural and religious traditions, particularly amongst North American First Nation people and New Zealand Maori. Historians though find mention of “restorative” practices as far back as 2000 BC. Sociologists and anthropologists have been able to uncover various forms of restorative justice in most peoples whose traditions have managed to survive under the radar of the colonising country.

In what way is this ancient “restorative” justice different from what we currently do? It demands that we think about what happens to the victim, and how their needs might be met in the aftermath of the crime/wrongdoing. This form of justice also demands that we consider the other stakeholders in what happened – what might their needs be? Who are they? For starters, this means we have to consider the person who perpetrated the crime (offender, wrongdoer). Punishment of the offender offers little in the way of genuine accountability. Punishment does little to meet a victim’s needs. It does little to address the causes of the wrongdoing. Punishment alone does not make things right, and indeed changes very little for the wrongdoer’s circumstances.

The community is a major stakeholder in the effects of wrongdoing and crime, and can rightfully be regarded a secondary victim. But it also has responsibilities to victims and wrongdoers and to itself. The concept that “it takes a whole village to raise a child” is never more true than when we consider the role a school plays in a community in the development of young people into responsible citizens. If we are to be clever with crime/wrongdoing, we must look to broader issues that may well be contributing.

In an era when school disciplinary traditions around the use of punitive sanctions no longer seem to deliver the outcomes we want, we are coming to the conclusion that we must rethink our behaviour management philosophy and practices. Schools that have adopted these restorative principles, are reporting better relationships with young people, greater engagement in learning and a greater development of important social and emotional competence in learners.