Restorative Justice Practices and Bullying Prevention

Cross-posted from the Stopbullying Blog.

States and districts are increasingly in support of policies and practices that shift school discipline away from zero tolerance, such as suspension and expulsion, to discipline that is focused on teaching and engagement. To this effort, districts and states are rethinking discipline and adopting both Restorative Justice Practices (RJP) and Bullying Prevention (BP) as school-wide efforts to provide school staff with a set of preventative and responsive strategies to supporting positive student behaviors.

What are Restorative Justice Practices?

Restorative Justice Practices are a set of informal and formal strategies intended to build relationships and a sense of community to prevent conflict and wrongdoing, and respond to wrongdoings, with the intention to repair any harm that was a result of the wrongdoing. Preventative strategies include community or relationship building circles, and the use of restorative language. Some responsive strategies include the use of Restorative Questions within a circle or conferencing format, again with the intention of repairing the wrong that happened as a result of the behavior. The Restorative Questions, while varied in exact language, ask the student to consider: what happened? who did it impact? how do you make it right?

What is Bullying Prevention?

Bullying Prevention involves explicitly teaching students how to treat each other respectfully (i.e. what respect looks like in their school)and how students, including bystanders and the student who is bullied, should respond when peers are not being respectful (i.e. Stop, Walk and Talk),. Also important, is how adults respond to bullying and they help reduce peer verbal and physical aggression (i.e. prompt the student to use the Stop, Walk and Talk response).

Both RJP and BP provide explicit guidelines for students and staff on their interactions with one another to prevent and respond to problem behavior in a dignified, problem-solving manner. They are also both in alignment with the preventative, research-validated framework of School-Wide Positive Behavior Supports and Interventions (SWPBIS). Within SWPBIS, school teams define, instruct, and reinforce appropriate social behaviors in the same manner they teach academic content. SWPBIS is data-driven; through regular review of student behavioral progress educators are equipped with real time information necessary for organize school resources to meet the social needs of all students. SWPBIS provides a strong platform for the adoption of RJP and BP because it allows educators to see the impact of both the preventative and responsive strategies within the school. Here are some examples of how schools are merging RJP and BP with SWPBIS.

Prevention

Approach

Specific Strategies

Monitoring for Student Success

SWPBIS Define, Teach and Acknowledge School-Wide Expectations Reductions in discipline referrals

Improvements on Climate or perception surveys on staff, student, and family perceptions of school safety, support, and a sense of community

BP Define, teach, practice and acknowledge respectful student to student interactions
RJP Establish Community Building Circles in alignment with school-wide expectations.

Response

Approach

Specific Strategies

Monitoring for Student Success

SWPBIS Define teacher responses to problem behavior. Reductions in discipline referrals

Improvements on Climate or perception surveys on staff, student, and family perceptions of school safety, support, and a sense of community

BP Define staff responses to bullying to consistently reteach and reinforce expected behavior.
RJP Define staff and administrative responses to problem behaviors to include Restorative Questions, Dialogue and Plans.

Jessica Swain-Bradway, Ph.D., is a former high school teacher and research associate at the University of Oregon and is currently the Research and Evaluation Director for Midwest PBIS Network www.midwestpbis.org. Dr. Swain-Bradway’s main areas for training and evaluation include multi-tiered systems of behavior support in high schools, the alignment of academic and social supports for the secondary classroom and Restorative Justice Practices within a School-wide Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (SWPBIS) frame.

1 Comment

  1. I am excited to read about this initiative. Currently, I am on an Absent Teacher Reserve assignment (ATR) in the NYC DOE system due to a change in cultural demographics at the former school assignment. As I travel every three weeks to a different high school in District 2, I have a unique experience of witnessing new teachers struggle with classroom management and how to incorporate structures in a daily lesson plan that have students revisit self – monitoring and self – regulation Habits of Mind in the meta cognitive portion of the lesson and its application to the subject and skill development for College and Career Readiness. I would like to the opportunity to train teachers in this area and/or become a paid participant in this initiative. My resume is on stand by.

    Respectfully,
    Karen Eubanks
    Teacher@NYC DOE
    Cell: 347-404-2789

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