What are Restorative Practices?
Restorative practices (RP) are drawn from the traditions of Indigenous people and communities of color around the world. They are grounded in a belief that people are profoundly relational, interconnected and inherently good. Restorative practices include ways of creating community that honors the importance of relationships amongst all members in the community; as well as practices to repair relationships when harm has been caused. RP address the needs all people impacted by the harm.
By using restorative practices in the school, people get to know one another and build relationships with each other, which is key element to learning, bullying prevention, and creating a positive school climate for students and adults. Key principles guide the practices.
The Practices of a Restorative School are formal and informal practices that transfer the restorative mindset into the daily lived experiences of school. Specifically, the practices include but are not limited to:
- Practices that develop the restorative mindset:
- Build community among adults
- Examine your own relationship to harm
- Explore implicit bias, historical trauma and resilience
- Practices that build community:
- Empathetic communication, which includes listening with care and curiosity, and speaking using the language of feeling, of empathy
- Circles to build and maintain relationships, to teach, to meet, to problem-solve, to provide ongoing support
- Practices that respond to harm:
- Restorative questions used in a chat or conversations with one or two people
- Circle or conferencing with a group of people affected by harm, using the restorative questions.
These practices are used to build healthy relationships and to create community in school, develop a positive school climate, prevent bullying and harm, and help repair harm. Restorative practices apply equally to everyone in the school community: students, adults, families and community members.
Restorative practices are based in the belief that all people are worthy and relational, that “all humans have gifts and everyone is needed for what they bring.”(1) Supporting this mindset of interconnectedness and relationships is an awareness and understanding of trauma, the impact of racism and implicit bias in our daily interactions. The development of a restorative mindset includes reflection upon and knowledge about power, privilege, history, race, justice and language.(2)
Implementing Restorative Practices in Schools
The Minnesota Department of Education developed Restorative Practices Implementation Guidance to provide school districts and schools with guidance and resources to help them integrate restorative practices into schoolwide climate, discipline, equity, and teaching and learning practices.
- Administrator’s Checklist for RP Implementation
- Circle Outlines for Adult Learning
- Restorative Practices in Schools Program Directory
- Restorative Practices in Schools Videos
- Restorative Practices in Schools Books and Manuals
- Restorative Practices in Schools Websites
- Restorative Interventions for Bullying Toolkit
(1) Boyes-Watson, C., and Pranis, K. (2015) Circle Forward: Building a Restorative School Community. Living Justice Press, St. Paul, MN.
(2) Winn, M. (2018). Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education Through Restorative Justice Harvard Educational Press, Cambridge, MA.