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Restorative Discipline

About Restorative Discipline Services
Adopt restorative discipline practices that build healthier school communities. We provide guidance, training, and tools to help educators facilitate constructive conflict resolution and foster mutual respect among students. Initiate change by scheduling a consultation with our restorative practices experts.
Our Services
  • Workshops on restorative practices and principles
  • Instruction on facilitation of restorative circles and conflict resolution sessions
  • Training for staff on maintaining an inclusive school culture
  • Continuous guidance and support for program sustainability
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What is Restorative Discipline?
In schools, Restorative Discipline is multifaceted in nature. Restorative Discipline could include interventions when harm has happened, as well as practices that help to prevent harm and conflict by helping to build a sense of belonging, safety, and social responsibility in the school community. The table below highlights the differences of traditional discipline compared to Restorative Discipline.
Traditional Discipline Restorative Discipline
Misbehavior defined as breaking school rules or letting the school down. Misbehavior defined as harm (emotional/mental/physical) done to one person/group by another.
Focus is on what happened and establishing blame or guilt. Focus on problem-solving by expressing feelings and needs and exploring how to address problems in the future.
Adversarial relationship and process. Includes an authority figure with the power to decide on penalty, in conflict with wrongdoer. Dialogue and negotiation, with everyone involved in the communication and cooperation with each other.
Imposition of pain or unpleasantness to punish and deter/prevent. Restitution as a means of restoring both parties, the goal being reconciliation and acknowledging responsibility for choices.
Attention to rules and adherence to due process. Attention to relationships and achievement of a mutually desired outcome.
Conflict/wrongdoing represented as impersonal and abstract; individual versus school. Conflict/wrongdoing recognized as interpersonal conflicts with opportunity for learning.
One social injury compounded by another. Focus on repair of social injury/damage.
School community as spectators, represented by member of staff dealing with the situation; those directly affected uninvolved and powerless. School community involved in facilitating restoration; those affected taken into consideration; empowerment.
Accountability defined in terms of receiving punishment. Accountability defined as understanding impact of actions, taking responsibility for choices, and suggesting ways to repair harm.
Restorative discipline can range from informal to formal. On a restorative practices continuum, the informal practices include affective statements and questions that communicate peoples’ feelings, and allow for reflection on how their behavior has affected others. Impromptu restorative conferences and circles are somewhat more structured, while formal conferences require more elaborate preparation. Moving from left to right on the continuum, as restorative processes become more formal, they involve more people, require more planning and time, and are more structured and complete.
Restorative discipline is a prevention-oriented approach that fosters consensus-based decisions to resolve school conflict such as bullying, truancy and disruptive behavior. It focuses not only on rule-breaking and discipline but focuses on changing the entire school culture. Restorative Discipline:
  • Acknowledges that relationships are central to building community.
  • Ensures equity of voice among all members of the community. All voices are valued, everyone is heard.
  • Establishes a culture of high expectations with high support, emphasizing doing things “WITH” not “TO” or “FOR”.
  • Builds systems that address misbehavior and harm in a way that strengthens relationships and focuses on the harm done rather than only rule-breaking.
  • Engages in collaborative problem solving.
  • Enhances accountability, responsibility and empowers change and growth for all members of the community.
Why Implement Restorative Discipline Practices?
Restorative Discipline is a philosophy and system wide process that works to change the school culture rather than merely responding to student behavior. When implementing restorative practices a shift in practice occurs that results in a culture that is inclusive, builds fair process into decision-making practices, and facilitates students learning to address the impact of their actions through an approach that allows for true accountability, skill building, cooperation, and mutual understanding.
Restorative Discipline will not only reduce the number of suspension and expulsions in schools, it also will increase class instructional time leading to greater opportunities for academic success.
What are the Benefits of Restorative Discipline in a School Setting?
  • A safer, more caring environment
  • A more effective teaching and learning environment
  • A greater commitment by everyone to taking the time to listen to one another
  • A reduction in bullying and other interpersonal conflicts
  • A greater awareness of the importance of connectedness to young people. The need to belong and feel valued by peers and significant adults
  • Greater emphasis on responses to inappropriate behavior that seek to reconnect, and not further disconnect young people
  • Reductions in fixed term and permanent suspensions and expulsions
  • A greater confidence in the staff team to deal with challenging situations
  • An increased belief in the ability of young people to take responsibility for their choices, and more people giving them opportunities to do so
What Restorative Discipline Resources are Available to Inform Best Practices?
Restorative Justice Practices and Bullying Prevention: States and districts are increasingly in support of policies and practices that shift school discipline away from zero tolerance, such as suspension and expulsion, to discipline that is focused on teaching and engagement. To this effort, districts and states are rethinking discipline and adopting both Restorative Justice Practices (RJP) and Bullying Prevention (BP) as school-wide efforts to provide school staff with a set of preventative and responsive strategies to supporting positive student behaviors.
Amstutz, L., & Mullet, J., (2005), pg 29-32.The Little Book of Restorative Discipline, pgs. 26-28
Costello, B., Wachtel, J., & Wachtel, T. (2009). The restorative practices handbook: For teachers, disciplinarians and administrators. International Institute for Restorative Practices.
SFUSD (n.d.). San Francisco Unified School District Restorative Practices Whole-School Implementation Guide.

7 Lesson Curriculum - Teaching Restorative Practices with Classroom Circles


Restorative Discipline Documents:


What Types of Support is Available to Implement Restorative Discipline Practices?
ESC-20 provides training and technical support related to Restorative Discipline. Resources have been created to introduce schools to the restorative process. Training and technical assistance are also available to assist districts and/or campuses with the implementation of Restorative Discipline.