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Restorative Practices and School Discipline

Restorative practices can contribute to the development of a positive school climate and discipline policies that are humanistic and inclusive, while increasing student voice and engagement.

Restorative Practices

Restorative Practices Beyond the Classroom External link opens in new window or tab.
This brief describes the need and rationale for expanding the use of restorative practices in contexts outside of the classroom.

Practical suggestions are outlined for incorporating these practices into existing school processes, which include Individual Education Plans/504 meetings, staff meetings, committee meetings, and online spaces.

These non-classroom spaces provide an opportunity for school leaders to model and teach the practices as well as build community among staff members. A short vignette at Ross Elementary provides an example of the material benefits of taking this approach to restorative practices implementation.

The Toolkit Before the Toolkit: Centering Adaptive and Relational Elements of Restorative Practices for Implementation Success External link opens in new window or tab.
Restorative practices hold significant promise for school transformation. However, because of the widespread popularity of their restorative justice component, many educators mistakenly assume that restorative practices are merely responsive, focused on repairing harm to relationships as an alternative to traditional disciplinary approaches that focus on punitive responses to rule infractions.

On the contrary, restorative practices are characterized by proactive relationships, connection, and community transformation. As such, effective implementation of restorative practices rests not merely on getting their technical aspects right, but far more on the often overlooked adaptive and relational elements that are necessary to achieve authentic, meaningful, and sustainable implementation.

By highlighting the mindsets, values, social capital, and structural supports that bind and hold together restorative practices, this guide provides educators, school leaders, and district administrators with the strategies, tools, and structural supports they need to successfully implement restorative practices and transform their schools into strong communities with meaningful relationships, a sense of authentic belonging, and equitable whole-person outcomes.

A Reflective Process for Working Through Complex Restorative Practice Dilemmas in Schools External link opens in new window or tab. Designed to accompany The Toolkit Before the Toolkit (Trout, 2021) External link opens in new window or tab., this brief offers a reflective process for individuals and teams to use when facing a complex restorative practices dilemma at their school or district.

It aims to help educators consider and bridge the adaptive, relational, and structural elements of restorative practices before moving to technical solutions and strategies.

The brief provides:

  • An overview of restorative practices
  • Grounding research about using a reflective process to transform mindsets and systems
  • Tips for applying this process in participants’ own contexts
  • Description of the main steps of the process, weaving in a fictional scenario to model the process in action

The Role of Restorative Practices in School Transformation: Centering Relationships and Connection External link opens in new window or tab.
Restorative practices hold significant promise for school transformation. These practices are characterized by proactive relationships, connection, and community transformation. As such, effective implementation of restorative practices rests not merely on getting the technical aspects right, but far more on attending to the often overlooked adaptive and relational elements that are necessary to achieve authentic, meaningful, and sustainable implementation. This webinar recording will provide educators, school leaders, and district administrators with the strategies, tools, and structures they need to successfully implement restorative practices. The session focused on mindsets, values, social capital, and structural supports that bind and hold together restorative practices and that transform schools into strong communities.

Can Restorative Practices Bridge Racial Disparities in Schools? Evidence from the California Healthy Kids Survey External link opens in new window or tab.
In California, Black students have markedly lower academic achievement than their White peers and Black students are also more likely to experience exclusionary discipline, such as suspensions (Cano, 2020, Losen & Martinez, 2020). What can be done to mitigate these racial disparities in schools?

In this brief, we investigate whether increasing student exposure to restorative practices could help reduce racial discipline and achievement gaps, with a review of a large sample of secondary students who completed the California Healthy Kids Survey between the 2013/14 and 2018/19 school years.

The analysis found that, across racial groups, students who had larger exposure to restorative practices saw less exposure to exclusionary discipline and better academic outcomes. Models also suggested that expanding restorative practices could bridge Black-White discipline disparities.

Restorative Practices: Using Data to Strengthen Your Practice External link opens in new window or tab.
Schools throughout California have adopted restorative practices as a means to curb the use of exclusionary discipline, allay racial disparities in discipline, and improve school climate. While research suggests that implementing these practices can drive improvements for students and schools, the literature is replete with examples of schools facing implementation challenges. Many school leaders lack means of tracking staff use of these practices, which constrains their ability to improve implementation. This recording provides guidance to school leaders regarding how to use existing data systems to measure school utilization of restorative practices and identify inequities in student exposure to these practices.

National Center for School Safety Restorative Practice and Other Resources External link opens in new window or tab.
This collection of resources from the National Center for School Safety includes restorative practices, implementing threat assessment teams, and other safety related practices.

School Discipline

Fix School Discipline External link opens in new window or tab.
Instead of correcting students’ behavior and making communities and schools safer, the quick removal methods, such as out-of-school suspension and expulsion, deprive students of the chance to receive the education and help that they need, making it more likely that they will drop out of school, enter the criminal justice system, and place their future options in jeopardy. There is a much better way to hold students accountable and keep schools safe.

Fix School Discipline Educator Toolkit External link opens in new window or tab.
The "How We Can Fix School Discipline Toolkit for Educators" is a step-by-step guide to working together to change harsh discipline rules.

Fix School Discipline - Take Action External link opens in new window or tab.
Links to California and federal laws requiring the use of alternative to out-of-school discipline.

Suspension Rates and Expulsion Rates External link opens in new window or tab.
DataQuest is the California Department of Education’s Web Reporting Portal which includes suspension and expulsion rates. The rates are based on individual student records and subgroup information is available using filter selections. Users may view data by race/ethnicity, gender, or grade level at the school, district, county, or state level. Suppression logic is triggered by enrollment counts to ensure privacy protection of students.

Kingmakers of Oakland External link opens in new window or tab.
Kingmakers of Oakland believes the current education system is failing Black boys, inhibiting them from reaching their full potential. To better support Black boys, the education system must make fundamental shifts across six leading system change drivers.

Other Means of Correction are Required by California Law External link opens in new window or tab.
California Education Code(EC) Section 48900.5 provides that suspension, including supervised suspension as described in EC Section 48911.1, shall be imposed only when other means of correction fail to bring about proper conduct.

California Collaborative for Educational Excellence External link opens in new window or tab.
As the statewide agency solely charged with assisting local educational agencies (LEAs) in need of support, the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence provides universal, targeted, and intensive supports and resources for LEAs through the work of our three Centers: Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leading, Center for Innovation, Instruction, and Impact, Center for Transformative Systems.

Questions: Tom Herman | therman@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0914 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, June 25, 2024