Restorative justice provides a framework through which an entire school community can build positive relationships and repair relationships that have been harmed. Often called "restorative practices" in the school setting, RJ is a holistic approach to school culture and student discipline that helps develop the social-emotional intelligence and empathy of all members of the community.

While restorative justice began as an alternative approach to responding to criminal conduct, in the school setting the foundation of restorative practices are the proactive, community-building 

positive school culture is an essential foundational element for effective instruction. Restorative justice improves social-emotional intelligence, creating safer, more respectful campus communities that can support improved academic achievement.


Restorative justice seeks to repair harm through inclusive processes that engage all stakeholders. Implemented well, restorative practices shift the focus of discipline from punishment to learning and from the individual to the community. However, the process is often misperceived and misapplied. Restorative justice is not a "soft" alternative to behavior management nor an opt-out to punitive measures. When wrongdoing has occurred, there must be real, felt consequences along with opportunities to make amends and learn from mistakes.

that are a constructive response to misbehavior. 


Restorative justice is an approach to addressing misbehavior and harm that involves those who have a stake in an offense in deciding how to make it right. A restorative approach to school climate and discipline involves the use of restorative justice protocols together with a whole-school approach to building school climate that works not only to respond to misbehavior, but to change school culture and promote the development of social-emotional competencies in students and adults alike. If  we have not built a healthy school community, there is nothing to "restore" when things go wrong.

Relationship, respect, responsibility, repair, reintegration

5 tiers of intervention

A restorative justice approach to school discipline provides ways for schools to safely and effectively resolve and prevent conflicts. 

RJ is an innovative approach to offending and inappropriate behavior which puts repairing harm done to relationships and people over and above the need for assigning blame and dispensing punishment. A restorative approach in a school shifts the emphasis from managing behavior to focusing on the building, nurturing and repairing of relationships. 

RJ keeps young people in school, addresses the root causes of behavior issues, and repairs relationships between students.

RJ originated in the pre-modern native cultures of the South Pacific and Americas. These cultures had a different approach to conflict and social ill. They emphasized the offender’s accountability for the harm they caused, along with a plan for repairing the hurt and restoring the offender to acceptance. The emphasis on the harm done rather than the act is a widely recognized principle across the RJ literature.

Restorative Conference

A restorative conference is a circle convened when harmful behavior happens that cannot be resolved by students themselves — whether it be in the form of gossip, bullying, a fight or assault, vandalism, theft, a student-teacher conflict, or a neighborhood conflict that has rippled into the school environment. A restorative conference brings together the people who engaged in the harmful behavior and those affected by it, along with supporters for both. CIS facilitates restorative conferences, using questions that call on the participants to identify what happened, who was affected, what harm was caused, and what is to be done to make things better and prevent the harmful behavior from happening in the future. By using a circle process to address harmful behavior, a restorative conference:

  • holds people truly accountable for the effects of their behavior
  • increases communication and respect, improves problem-solving skills, and improves individuals’ and the community’s ability to deal with conflicts
  • contributes to building a strong sense of community