Last week, School Health Services Coalition, a division of Alameda County Health Care Services Agency in California, released Restorative Justice: A Working Guide for Our Schools.
[Be patient: the document can take a bit to load in your browser.
--Ed.] The publication is a resource for anyone who seeks to implement
restorative justice in the school setting. The 43 page PDF covers the
- Introduction to restorative justice and its application to schools
- Use of the approach on three levels (1) as a school-wide prevention
practice, (2) to manage difficulties, and (3) for intense intervention
- Benefits, outcomes and impacts from current evaluative reports
- Guidance on initiating restorative justice at the school or district level
- Abstracts of publications and websites for additional information and support.
During the writing of this publication, we talked to innovators
implementing both restorative thinking and restorative processes in
schools. Many reported that, in implementing restorative processes, they
“just had to figure it out as they went along.” While this may not seem
helpful toward our understanding of how to implement restorative
justice, figuring it out as we go along is one of the keys to its
Restorative justice is not unstructured; but the structure is
different from what we have learned to expect in our systems.
Restorative justice encourages us to be constantly present, attending to
needs as they arise. It exercises our ability to be dynamic rather than
static in our responses. It also creates a safe space for people to
express themselves—their strengths, assets, responsibilities, and also,
their vulnerability. As a result, it humanizes all those involved and
promotes connection and healing.
The understanding that issues will have to be figured out as they
go along invites a practitioner to inquire with an open mind. It allows
leaders to listen and to observe the needs of the entire student body.
It teaches administrators and staff that there is more than one way to
respond to conflict and more than one way to launch a restorative
Schools are communities created by staff, faculty, students, and
families; these are the true experts. Because each school creates its
own unique culture, the implementation and practice of restorative
justice has to be tailored to the needs of each school and with the
knowledge and support of each school community. For this reason, there
is no standard program or curriculum. Programs and curricula come and
go; restorative practices go deeper. They result in a whole new way of
The purpose of this publication is to provide support and guidance
for teachers, health workers, community leaders, and school personnel
who seek to implement restorative justice in their schools and to shed
light on implementation. It is certain that the implementation process
in each school setting will be new for each school. Just like those who
have informed this guide, new stories will continue to pave the path to
We welcome feedback on the publication. We have also created a forum, www.restorativeschoolsforum.org
, for practitioners to connect, communicate, and share their experiences with implementing restorative justice in schools.
Jon Kidde, Restorative Justice Consultant
Jon Kidde has been exploring the concepts of restorative justice
for over 10 years and has helped design and implement several programs
based on restorative justice in Wyoming and California, conducted
research on the perspectives of youth, parents, victims, and community
members who have interacted with the Juvenile Court, and facilitated
strategic planning for organizations. He currently coordinates the
implementation of a statewide initiative to enhance Court Diversion
Programs in Vermont.
Rita R. Alfred, Restorative Justice Consultant
Rita has dedicated the last 30 years serving youth and families in
the Bay Area CA. Rita was the Restorative Justice Coordinator at Cole
Middle School in the Oakland Unified School District. Rita is a
practitioner and trainer in Restorative Justice and with others has
facilitated over 1000 experiential trainings for adults and youth in its
philosophies and practices. She is also a first responder to crises in
schools including student homicides and acts of violence on campus. Rita
has raised two sons as a single parent.
This article originally appeared on Reclaiming Futures. It is reprinted here with permission.