Restorative School Practices
In 2006, the Restorative Justice Project began to apply the principles and practices of restorative justice in the area of education, known as Restorative School Practices. In partnership with the University of Maine Peace & Reconciliation Studies Program and the Maine Law & Civics Education Program at University of Southern Maine, RJP formed Restorative School Practices of Maine (RSPM) which is a program of the Restorative Justice Project.
A coalition of trainers assists and supports Maine educators in understanding and implementing restorative practices, values and skills, including restorative discipline, in schools throughout Maine. To date RSPM has provided training, presentations, workshops, institutes and consultation on changing school climate to become more restorative, to more than 1,400 teachers, staff, administrators, school boards, reaching over 7,000 students and their parents in all parts of the state.
Restorative School Practices of Maine works effectively to keep students engaged and connected in the school community. The restorative approach focuses on building a safe, inclusive, respectful climate and culture in schools. This approach recognizes the importance of strengthening student connectedness to teachers, peers and schools, through relationship and community-building, and through restorative, rather than punitive, approaches to discipline.
Restorative discipline practices promote empathy, self-understanding and a strong sense of accountability, in which students learn from their mistakes, understand the impact of their actions on others, and have opportunities to repair the harm they have caused through misbehavior. In a restorative discipline system, educators find ways to keep misbehaving students withinthe school community whenever possible, rather than isolating them or removing them from schools. The restorative approach helps to build and maintain student empowerment, self-worth and connectedness to adults, which enhances both student learning outcomes and community cohesion. The use of Restorative School Practices helps create a restorative school climate with the goal of keeping young people connected and engaged in school.
Lack of engagement is a critical risk factor in the school-to-prison pipeline that can be countered with Restorative School Practices. In Maine, schools are just beginning to implement Restorative School Practices and are already seeing the effectiveness of this approach and significant and even dramatic decreases in discipline measures, resulting in a marked decrease in the numbers of office referrals, suspensions and expulsions. Initial data from schools that RJP has worked with have shown that detentions were reduced by as much as 58%, suspensions by 63% and other serious offenses by as much as 69%.
RSPM offers conferences, trainings, workshops and institutes across the state, which invite educators to learn about and practice the principles, skills, strategies and tools of the restorative approach.
Leaving school is the single most significant predictor of negative youth outcomes. Youth who leave school are twice as likely to be unemployed, three times as likely to live in poverty, twice as likely to become the parent of a dropout, and more likely to end up in prison.
- Maine Juvenile Justice Task Force 2010