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Restorative Justice in Schools: Web Resources

Many consider restorative justice theory to be applicable in situations outside the criminal justice system. Conflict is a natural part of community life. One area that has received attention is the school setting. Traditional punishments seem to be ineffective in responding to behaviour problems in schools. For this reason, restorative processes such as mediation, circles, and conferencing have been adapted to the school setting. Below is a listing of articles on the application of restorative theory to school discipline.
Ahmed, Eliza. (n.d.). Shame management and bullying: Stability and variability over time. In From bully to responsible citizenship: A restorative approach to building safe school communities, ed. B. Morrison. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. 

In this paper, Eliza Ahmed examines the scope of shame management processes in understanding bullying and victimization in schools. Bullying and victimization from bullying are related to children’s shame management skills. These skills are learned and can be relearned through socialization processes; conversely, failure to acquire and refine them can harm a child’s social, emotional, and behavioral functioning. Building on research into bullying and victimization in Australian schools, Ahmed covers the following topics: the nature of shame management and its relationship to bullying and victimization; and the stability and variability over time of shame management and bullying.

Ahmed, Eliza And Braithwaite, Valerie. (n.d.). A multiperspective comparison of bullying status groups: Family and school concerns. In School stress, ed. B. Heubeck and J. Sanders. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Research has indicated the importance of various family and school factors in accounting for bullying. Family factors include authoritarian and authoritative parenting styles as well as family disharmony. School factors include disliking school, perceived lack of control of bullying, and school hassles. In terms of research, there is still a need to understand better how family and school interact in accounting for bullying. In this paper, based on a 1999 study on school bullying, Ahmed and Braithwaite examine the extent to which family and school variables intersect in contributing to the social roles of school bullies and victims.

Bargen, Catherine. (2003). Safe Schools: Strategies for Changing a Culture. Paper presented at the Sixth International Conference On Restorative Justice. Centre for Restorative Justice. 1-4 June. Vancouver BC. Downloaded 16 June 2003. 

Teachers, administrators, and communities are looking for ways to make their schools “safe schools.” What, asks Catherine Bargen, does a safe school look like? In spite of efforts to create safe schools, incidents of aggression and violence continue to disrupt and disturb school communities. Bargen maintains that something comprehensive must be done that will encourage a shift in the culture of the way that conflict and punishment are viewed. In this regard, she relates the experience of School District #35 in Langley, British Columbia, and its partnership with Fraser Region Community Justice Initiatives to explore how restorative justice principles might affect culture change throughout the local school system.

Braithwaite, Valerie. (n.d.). A framework for tailoring a Responsible Citizenship Program to your school. In From bully to responsible citizenship: A restorative approach to building safe school communities, ed. B. Morrison. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. 

School anti-bullying programs usually reflect the underlying organizational philosophy of the school, from a traditional hierarchical perspective to a liberal democratic one. Hence, discipline programs range from those with strict codes of conduct and punishments in response to code violations to codes of conduct and enforcement developed with community discussion and feedback. Valerie Braitwaite contends that, no matter how traditional or liberal they are, schools should create a safe space offered by programs like the Responsible Citizenship Program (RCP), in which each child is to be treated with love and respect. This program – which can be integrated into a variety of school philosophies and structures – enables a school to espouse principles of respect, consideration, and participation, practice those principles, and sanction actions that contradict them. Braithwaite presents a framework for adapting RCP to a school context.

Braithwaite, Valerie And Morrison, Brenda And Ahmed, Eliza And Reinhart, Monika. (2001). Researching prospects for restorative justice practice in schools: The Life at School Survey 1996-1999. Restorative Justice Conference, Leuven, September, 2001. Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. Down loaded 26 June 03. 

As the authors note at the outset of their paper, restorative justice practices are increasingly being regarded as attractive options for dealing with wrongdoing in school communities. Traditional punishments – such as suspension or expulsion – are being used as tools of last resort. Alternative forms of dealing with conflict in the school community come in a variety of forms, including counseling, teaching more effective parenting, shaping school norms about appropriate behavior, and enabling children to mediate conflict and find peaceful solutions. Restorative justice fits within these broad social trends of best practices in school management. In this context the authors investigate questions about how best to build a restorative justice program in schools. Through results from the “Life at School Survey” – conducted at 32 schools in Canberra – they focus in particular on the prospects for restorative interventions based on the notion of shame management for students within a school community.

Calhoun, Avery. (2000). Calgary Community Conferencing- School component 1999-2000: A year in review. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Calgary Community Conferencing.

Begun in 1998, Calgary Community Conferencing (CCC) is a joint initiative of governmental and nongovernmental organizations. It accepts referrals from the youth justice system as well as the school system. This report focuses on CCC’s work with schools in 1999-2000. Data presented include the number of conferences conducted and participating schools; types of incidents and referral sources; response time with respect to the incident, referral, and conference; information on the participants; the direct services provided by conferencing staff to participants; restoration agreements; school consequences for young people who participated in conferences; incidents referred but not brought to conference; and characteristics of youth participants. 

Cameron, Lisa And Thorsborne, Margaret. (1998). Restorative Justice and School Discipline: Mutually Exclusive?. Education Queensland and Transformative Justice Australia.

The authors outline the results of two separate studies involving the introduction of community conferencing into schools to deal with incidents of serious harm. Experiences during the two years in which these studies were conducted highlighted a range of implementation issues which exposed tensions between existing philosophies and practices in managing behaviour and restorative interventions. The authors concluded that conferencing was unable to achieve its potential because of these tensions. Education theory clearly articulates the importance to discipline and pedagogy of healthy relationships between all members of the school community. Restorative justice has much to offer in this respect. This paper argues that the language and discourse around discipline needs to change to embrace a framework in which wholesome behaviours are actively promoted. Compliance should be seen as an outcome of understanding and a sense of belonging to a community, rather than as an end in itself.

Claassen, Ron. (2002). An Introduction to 'Discipline that Restores'. Fresno: Center For Peacemaking and Conflict Studies. 17 October 2002 

Ron Claassen describes a restorative disciplinary program developed for use in a school in California. The program, “Discipline that Restores” (DTR), was developed by Ron Claassen and his wife, Roxanne, to apply restorative justice principles in Roxanne's classes of elementary students and eighth graders. The Claassens now provide training for other teachers in the school. In this paper, Ron Claassen explains the principles of “Discipline that Restores,” presents an illustration of four options for handling conflict, and recounts how another teacher uses a modification of victim-offender reconciliation to deal with conflicts between students and teachers.

Claassen, Roxanne. (1993). Discipline that restores. Conciliation Quarterly Newsletter 12 (Spring). 

An elementary school teacher, Claassen became familiar with mediation and cooperative problem solving through work with a victim offender reconciliation program. Here she describes the application of restorative conflict resolution in a school setting. The principles and practices of problem solving in her classroom involve rules with consequences – consequences that aim to be restorative rather than punish. She provides examples from the classroom to show how this works. 

Crawford, Donna And Bodine, Richard. (1996). Conflict Resolution Education: A Guide to Implementing Programs in Schools, Youth-Serving Organizations, and Community and Juvenile Justice Settings; Program Report. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 

The first chapter defines conflict as a natural condition and examines the origins of conflict, responses to conflict, and the outcomes of those responses. It presents the essential principles, foundation abilities, and problem-solving processes of conflict resolution; discusses the elements of a successful conflict resolution program; and introduces four approaches to implementing conflict resolution education. Each of the next four chapters discusses one of these four approaches and presents examples of programs that use the approach. One chapter describes an approach to conflict resolution education characterized by devoting a specific time to teaching the foundation abilities, principles, and one or more of the problem-solving processes of conflict resolution in a separate course or distinct curriculum. Another chapter describes an approach in which selected, trained individuals provide neutral third-party facilitation in conflict resolution. A chapter presents an approach that incorporates conflict resolution education into the core subject areas of the curriculum and into classroom management strategies, and another chapter presents a comprehensive whole-school methodology that builds on the previous approach. The next two chapters address conflict resolution education in settings other than traditional schools, including juvenile justice and community settings. The final three chapters address more overarching topics: conflict resolution research and evaluation; a developmental sequence of behavioral expectations in conflict resolution; and the process of developing, implementing, and sustaining a conflict resolution program. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,

Osborn, David A. (2003). Training in Restorative Justice: Enhancing Praxis with Public School Educators. Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Master of Adult Education. Saint Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Downloaded 21 August 2003. 

This paper is based on the development, design and impact of restorative justice training programs on two groups of public school educators. It concludes that training in restorative justice, when linked with methods that support and model the use of praxis, will develop and improve educators’ ability to be collaborative. (The effective use of praxis assumes that individuals involved in its practice are actively engaged in their social environment and are therefore able to assert their needs within that context. It also assumes they can reflect on their actions and are therefore able to co-operate within their social environment.)

Maday, Mike. (1994). Kid mediators: Learning and applying conflict resolution skills in schools. In Context: A Quarterly of Humane Sustainable Culture (Spring): 27ff. 

Mike Maday helps schools set up conflict resolution and mediation programs. He describes the student mediator's role, rules for students to follow in order to resolve problems, and basic mediation processes. Maday also discusses key components of a curriculum for school peer mediation programs.

McCold, Paul. (2002). The Worst School I've Ever Been to: Empirical Evaluations of a Restorative School and Treatment Milieu. Paper presented at "Dreaming of a New Reality," the Third International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, August 8-10, 2002, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

The Worst School I’ve Ever Been To is a film about the 1999-2000 school year at an alternative school in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. The alternative school/day treatment program is one of six operated for delinquent and high risk youth by the Community Service Foundation (CSF) and Buxmont Academy. This program and others begun by CSF and Buxmont operate on a philosophy of restorative practices. This paper summarizes research results from a long-term evaluation of CSF and Buxmont students by Paul MCold and other researchers.

Morrison, Brenda. (2002). Bullying and Victimisation in Schools: A Restorative Justice Approach. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, No. 219, February 2002, Australian Institute of Criminology 

Bullying at school causes enormous stress for many children and their families, and has long-term effects. School bullying has been identified as a risk factor associated with antisocial and criminal behaviour. Bullies are more likely to drop out of school and to engage in delinquent and criminal behaviour. The victims are more likely to have higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression and illness, and an increased tendency to suicide. This paper reports on a restorative justice program that was run in a primary school in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), but whose lessons have wider application. Early intervention has been advocated as the most appropriate way to prevent bullying. This paper outlines a framework, based on restorative justice principles, aimed at bringing about behavioural change in the bullying individual while keeping schools and communities safe. The aim of restorative programs is to reintegrate those affected by wrongdoing back into the community as resilient and responsible members. Restorative justice is a form of conflict resolution and seeks to make it clear to the offender that the behaviour is not condoned, while at the same time being supportive and respectful of the individual. The paper highlights the importance of schools as institutions that can foster care and respect and provide opportunities to participate in processes that allow for differences to be worked through constructively. It recommends that schools be resourced and supported to address bullying because of the debilitating effect of this problem.

Morrison, Brenda. (2001). Restorative justice and school violence: Building theory and practice. Paper presented at the International Conference on Violence in Schools and Public Policies, held at the Palais de l’UNESCO, Paris, France, 5-7 March. Canberra: Australian National University, Research School of Social Sciences, Center for Restorative Justice. 

Brenda Morrison begins this paper by acknowledging the difficulty in addressing school violence. Against a background of various responses that have been tried, with mixed results, she advocates restorative justice as an approach that offers hope. Restorative justice seeks to build communities of care around individuals while holding people accountable and not condoning harmful behavior. In this paper, Morrison explores recent developments in building theory and practice for the application of restorative justice to one form of school violence – school bullying. Topics covered in her paper include an overview of the nature and extent of bullying, a theoretical framework for understanding it, and the philosophy of restorative justice practice in relation to bullying.

Starkweather, Hanna. (2000). Bittersweet candy, sweet peace. VORP News 18 (October/November): 1. 

In this article Hanna Starkweather narrates a story of candy stealing and mediation. Three fifth graders were involved in stealing candy from a special store at their elementary school. With Ms. Starkweather as mediator, the students, their families, and a school administrator met to deal with the wrongdoing. The article describes the process and the positive outcomes of this mediation.

Strang, Heather. (2002). Crimes against schools: The potential for a restorative justice approach. Paper presented at the International Forum on Initiatives for Safe Schools: School Violence Prevention and Juvenile Protection – What Works?, held in Seoul, South Korea, June 22-25. Canberra: Australian National University, Research School of Social Sciences, Law Program. 

Crimes against schools – such as vandalism and arson – are enormously expensive, both in monetary and social terms. Schools are prime targets for a variety of reasons. Strang maintains that restorative justice provides considerable potential for resolving crimes against schools. To advance her argument, she explores specific restorative justice practices, with particular focus on conferencing. This leads to discussion of restorative conferencing and the Reintegrative Shaming Experiments (RISE) in Canberra, Australia, in relation to school crime.

Wachtel, Ted. (2000). "SaferSanerSchools: Restoring community in a disconnected world." Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: International Institute for Restorative Practices. 

Wachtel observes that punishment is the normal response to wrongdoing in schools. Not wanting to be perceived as permissive as behavior becomes more difficult and violent, schools are increasingly more punitive. In Wachtel’s view, a significant factor in all of this consists in the loss of relationships and community in the United States. Hence, he explores an alternative to what he sees as a cycle of misbehavior, punishment, and increased alienation between young people and adults. He proposes a social discipline window comprised of both control and support, which he characterizes as a restorative approach. Wachtel then examines a number of restorative principles and practices relevant to schools and other settings.



October 2003

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