Tips to effectively practice restorative justice in schools

August 22,2022

Mental Health

Restorative justice in schools

Restorative justice encourages cheerful, effective, and well-ordered school environments. Not only shall the children in the school, but all of them associated with the schools learn values that form the basis of humanity. Restorative justice in schools is the apt method to deal with children's wrongdoings. Despite the events, restorative justice helps victims and offenders go back to their earlier status quo. Through restorative justice in schools, students learn about the basic values of human life like love, forgiveness, patience, acceptance, trust, etc. The whole concept of Restorative Justice is an excellent choice for schools to sort out internal issues.

We are all aware that it is impossible to depend on punishing techniques like suspension or dismissal completely. Studies show that the academic and overall performance of the schools is inversely proportional to the number of serious punishment actions taken by the schools. Now, experts opine that it is high time to rethink the current system used in schools to react to children's wrongdoing.

Non-acceptance of anti-social behaviour is the first-hand reaction to any offence without considering the state of mind, age, or context. But this is not a fair method. When we only focus on the offender's crime, we forget the person in it, thus losing out on the humane values in the process. Instead of rectifying the harm or putting things back things together, it adds another offence to compensate for the first one. It does not consider the root cause of the offence or does not make any effort to eradicate it at the root level. It does not do anything good to the people associated with the crime. Rather, it brings a sort of bad feeling between the people associated.

Why is restorative justice effective in schools?

Restorative justice in schools is the best method to deal with the offences committed by children. This method gives both the offender and victim to reconcile and make the necessary amendments to negate the effects of the crime. This benefits the student, teachers, parents, and other communities in the schools.

As mentioned earlier, the overall performance of schools with the highest number of suspension and more strict rules seem to be poor. Restorative justice schools are proven to be the most comfortable places for children. They help love, consideration and humanity to flourish in the community. They help the schools become places of success and a garden of a fresh bouquet which shall be spread to the whole community. These eight tips explained below will help you implement Restorative Justice in your schools.

1. Assess what is going on

The primary thing you should do is assess your school's current methods and practices. How does your school deal with the wrongdoing of the students in the school? Is there any discrimination based on caste or creed while dealing with such issues? Apart from all, evaluate the overall learning atmosphere of your school.

2. Keep everyone engaged properly

Check on the feedback of students, parents, and staff on the disciplinary actions taken by the aspiring restorative justice school. Evaluate their awareness of the bad impacts of punishing the wrongdoers in the school.

Studies reveal that taking severe punishment steps like suspension or dismissal increases the possibility of these students becoming dropouts and becoming part of criminal justice one way or the other. Also, as per statistics, 75% of the prisoners are school dropouts.

It is always recommendable to organise restorative justice courts to develop a strong bond between students. In addition, restorative justice in schools can go in hand with any mild justice method because it can bring positivity, a systematic school environment, and total harmony. Therefore, restorative justice in schools helps all the people involved become humans, fully aware of the basic values of humanity. Restorative justice is not just a system to sort our issues between individuals, but it is a practice of bringing life and love to the school.

Many examples of Restorative Justice success stories are available online. Exposing the staff and teachers to these will help them realise the exact method of Restorative Justice. 

3. Take advice from an expert

There are options for you to appoint professionals to implement this idea. A school's professional justice or discipline co-coordinator is a wise choice. Or a person in some other post in your school who is skilled and professionally trained in Restorative Justice can also take the role of Restorative Justice Co-coordinator or practitioner.

4. Start with Training

There is no need to wait to implement the practice of Restorative Justice in schools. You may start at any time. Initially, you will have to set a strategy by taking opinions from all groups. Make sure that the teachers, students community, parents and other staff in the school get a role in this. In addition, including a maximum number of people from these categories at the beginning of the academic year will be useful. This will give an outline of the idea of Restorative Justice.

This will lay the foundation for all the people involved with the school. Later a core group with a few members shall be formed to put things and ideas into practice. They will frame the rules to be implemented and take action in case of offences committed. In addition, this core group doesn't have to wait for an incident. Therefore, they can work on areas of improvement and develop new strengths. 

It is always good if you have an inside team to make the framework on how to work. But it is absolutely fine even if you don't have one. You may take service from a professional agency for this.

5. Whole School level Approach

An induction training at the beginning of every academic year is very useful. There is no special place for the idea of Restorative Justice like that of the classroom. Therefore, it can be defined as the thought that is all around. For a restorative justice system in a school to be effective, it is important to ensure that the classroom has a well-bonded group that knows each other well. So, the restorative justice school should create a bond between the class and the whole school. Furthermore, this should be done regularly. They should be encouraged to form their own Restorative Justice groups to strengthen the restorative justice system in schools.

6. Establish Restorative Justice Method in the school

The associated person will start putting into practice the thoughts, and it will be Restorative Justice instead of Disciplinary Action. Students can get to the usual framework with ease when they return to school after a while due to suspension etc. At times these activities might include the participation of the parent community as well. The follow-up of the activities is very important. Regular revision of the discipline policies of the school is also essential. You may keep assessment forms to note down the progress and changes. Systematic documentation of the data collected will help with all future procedures.

restorative justice in schools

7. Encourage Student Participation

It will be very effective if the students themselves take up the role of implementers. Train students on how to deal with issues or people associated with issues. Teach them how to talk about things and solve them instead of fighting over them. Share your role with the young group. Give them opportunities to practice Restorative Justice. Use the power of art to help the children improve their abilities to react to various thoughts.

8. Do timely evaluation

Regularly conduct review meetings and data analysis to check whether your plans are on the right path or not. Make a systematic comparison of the data considering the number of disciplinary actions taken, offensive incidents in the school, racial discrimination, academic performance, and student participation. The data shall be collected from the teachers, the students, the parents and the staff. Evaluation points include:

  • The sense of safety of the children.
  • The sense of belongingness of the children to the school.
  • A comparison of the students themselves and the relation between students and teachers. 
  • The school's willingness to opt for Restorative Justice rather than zero tolerance, 
  • Tips to be included to improve the plan, 
  • Tips to extend the plan to the entire school or cluster level.
  • The work status of Restorative Justice.
  • The noticeable changes that have happened.

If you aim to mould a wise, healthy, bright and empathetic generation, these tips will surely help you move at a greater pace and establish a successful restorative justice system in your schools. 

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