Restoring relationships: Exploring an alternative approach to traditional discipline practices

Large studies of the 13 southern United States and California reveal an issue of equity and project far-reaching social consequences. Disciplinary disproportionality has affected the way students of color interact with the public-school system by historically providing harsher disciplinary procedures. One promising program, known as restorative justice, includes the voice and involvement of students in their discipline as they repair the relationships that have been affected by their misdeeds through the use of restorative practices. Discussion groups, circles, and mediations are facilitated by trained adults to improve decision making, and empathy while enhancing the school climate. The implementation of restorative justice practices may assist schools in closing the chasm that exists for students of color within the school disciplinary structure as well as improving school climate by offering an empathetic alternative in confronting bullying. This qualitative case study examined teacher and student perceptions of student behavior and school climate as a result of administrative implementation of restorative practices. Anonymous on-line teacher questionnaires, individual teacher interviews and student focus group data were used to reach conclusions. Both teachers and students saw changes in communication, relationships and discipline as being influenced by the introduction of restorative practices.