Keeping Kids in Schools: Restorative Justice, Punitive Discipline, and the School to Prison Pipeline
Journal of Law & Education, Vol 41, No. 2
56 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2015
Date Written: April 2012
Although the use of restorative justice in schools is hardly new globally, the emergence of school-based restorative justice in the United States as an educational practice to address the far-reaching negative impacts of punitive discipline policies is a more recent phenomenon. School-based restorative justice programs in the United States have grown exponentially in the last five years. Within the school context, restorative justice is broadly defined as an approach to discipline that engages all parties in a balanced practice that brings together all people impacted by an issue or behavior. It allows students, teachers, families, schools, and communities to resolve conflict, promote academic achievement, and address school safety. Restorative justice practice in schools is often seen as building on existing relationships and complementary with other non-discipline practices, such as peer mediation or youth courts. This Article examines the implementation, development, and impact of a school-based restorative justice program across the United States with a specific case study of North High School in Denver, Colorado. Part II details the impact of punitive discipline policies in schools as a framework for understanding the critical importance for schools to adopt alternative practices in addressing student behavior. Part III presents the practice of restorative justice in schools. Specifically, Part ll provides a foundation for understanding the emergence of school-based restorative justice, the philosophy of restorative justice, and models of restorative justice in schools. Part III also discusses preliminary data collected from school-based restorative programs. Part IV contextualizes the school-based restorative justice practice in the Denver Public School District. This article concludes in Part V with reflections on the need for reform of punitive schools' discipline policies as integral to a fight for educational equity.
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