Restorative Practices


• Builds community, addresses misbehavior, strengthens relationships, and repairs harm.

Traditional Approach:

• The focus is on school and rules being violated.
• The main focus is to establish guilt.
• Accountability happens when the student is punished for the offence.

Restorative Approach:

• People and relationships are violated and the focus is to address this wrong.
• Justice identifies needs of victim and obligation to address the needs of those wronged.
• Accountability equates to understanding the impact of the negative behavior and repairing harm.


The following principles reflect the values and concepts for implementing restorative practices in the school setting. Under each principle are some of its important implications.

1. Acknowledges that relationships are central to building community.

• Restorative practices seek to strengthen relationships and build community by encouraging a caring school climate.
• Every student, teacher, administrator, staff member, and parent/guardian is a valued member of the school community.
• Students should be involved in a process of naming the values and principles to live by within their school community.

2. Builds systems that address misbehavior and harm in a way that strengthens relationships.

• Schools establish policies to provide a safe place for learning. Real safety however comes from fostering and maintaining caring relationships.
• Policies should reflect the values and principles agreed to by the school community.
• Policies need to address the root causes of discipline problems rather than only the symptoms. The causes of misbehavior may be multiple and each should be addressed.

3. Focuses on the harm done rather than only on rule-breaking.

• Misbehavior is an offense against people and relationships, not just rule-breaking.
• The solution to the offense needs to involve all of those harmed by the misbehavior.
• The person harmed is the center of the primary relationship that needs to be addressed. Secondary relationships that may have been impacted might include other students, teachers, parents, the administration, and the surrounding community.
• Much misbehavior arises out of attempts to address a perceived injustice. Those who are victimized also feel they have been treated unjustly. Discipline processes must leave room for addressing these perceptions.

4. Gives voice to the person harmed.

• The immediate safety concerns of the person harmed are primary.
• Those harmed must be given an opportunity to have a voice in the resolution of the harm.

5. Engages in collaborative problem solving.

• All of us act to satisfy our human needs (for belonging, freedom, power, and fun). Students choose behaviors to meet these underlying needs.
• Family, students, and communities are encouraged to help identify problems and solutions that meet needs.
• Misbehavior can become a teachable moment if everyone is involved.

6. Empowers change and growth.

• In order for students to change and grow, we must help them identify their needs and assist them in finding alternative, life giving ways of meeting those needs.
• Interpersonal conflict is a part of living in relationship with others.
• Conflict presents opportunity for change if the process includes careful listening, reflecting, shared problem-solving, trust, and accountability structures that support commitments to work at relationship building.

7. Enhances Responsibility.

• Real responsibility requires one to understand the impact of her or his actions on others, along with an attempt to acknowledge and put things right when that impact is negative.
• Consequences should be evaluated based on whether they are reasonable, related to the offense, restorative, and respectful.
• Students should continually be invited to become responsible and cooperative.
• Some students choose to resist participation in a process that will allow for change and may need adults to support and guide them in decision-making concerning their accountability.
“What’s fundamental about restorative justice (practices) is a shift away from thinking about laws being broken, who broke the law, and how we punish the people who broke the laws. There’s a shift to: there was harm caused, or there’s disagreement or dispute, there’s conflict, and how do we repair the harm, address the conflict, meet the needs, so that relationships and community can be repaired and restored. It’s a different orientation. It is a shift.” Cheryl Graves- Community Justice for Youth Institute


1. Builds empathy
2. Promotes accountability
3. Repairs Harm
4. Improves relationships
5. Strengthens community
6. Keeps students in school
7. Keeps students engaged in school

Restorative Practices Continuum

Restorative practices 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.

Informal Formal

Affective Statements; Restorative Questions; Pro-active Circles; Responsive Circles; Restorative Conferences

Affective Statements: the starting point for all restorative processes involving active non-judgmental listening and expression of feelings and impact. Affective statements allow for students and staff to build strengthened relationships by genuinely presenting oneself as someone who cares and has feelings. This authentic expression offers one the opportunity to learn and reflect on how their behavior has affected others.

Restorative Discussion: A restorative approach to help those harmed by other’s actions, as well as responding to challenging behavior consists in asking key questions:

Restorative Questions:
1. What happened, and what were you thinking at the time?
2. What have you thought about since?
3. Who has been affected by what you have done? In what way?
4. What about this has been hardest for you?
5. What do you think you need to do to make things as right as possible?

Proactive and Responsive Circles: circles can be used for team building and problem solving. It enables a group to get to know each other, builds inclusion, and allows for the development of mutual respect, trust, sharing, and concern. Circles provide students with opportunities to share their feelings, ideas, and experiences in order to establish relationships and develop social norms on a non-crisis basis. When there is wrongdoing, circles play an active role in addressing the wrong and making things right.

Restorative Meetings/Conferences: involves those who have acknowledged causing harm meeting with those they have harmed, seeking to understand each other’s perspective and coming to a mutual agreement which will repair the harm as much as possible. Often all sides bring supporters, who have usually been affected, and have something to say from a personal perspective.