Restorative Justice Liability: School Discipline Reform and Right to Safe Schools

11 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2020

See all articles by Bernard James

Bernard James

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law

Date Written: June 24, 2020


This article considers the relationship between school discipline reform and student rights. Traditionally student claims against school officials for injuries sustained on campus confront a tangible constraint in the form of a presumption that second-guessing education policy sits uncomfortably outside the judicial role. Under the current wave of school discipline reform, judicial review previously considered perfunctory is becoming more rigorous. Courts are finding educators liable in student injury cases, disregarding judicial deference and traditional immunities. In this changing legal environment, educators unwittingly find themselves holding the sharp end of the stick as they take up the task of revising school discipline policies around elements of restorative justice. Court decisions over the last decade suggest that school-based restorative justice policies take on variations of “excessive tolerance,” in which discipline outcomes function under the weight of an expectation to keep students in school, emphasizing forbearance and minimal sanctions. A review of cases, studies, and scholarship connects school-based restorative justice outcomes to the most important evidence of the changing judicial attitude: criminal and civil liability against educators who fail to protect students. This article argues that school disciplinary policies characterized by (a) minimal sanction severity for serious offences, (b) apathy to the probability of recurrence, and (c) disinterest for collaborative assessments, are associated with an increased risk of campus disorder and violence for which educators are culpable.

Keywords: Restorative Justice, Liability, school Reform School safety, school discipline, student rights

Suggested Citation

James, Bernard, Restorative Justice Liability: School Discipline Reform and Right to Safe Schools (June 24, 2020). University of Memphis Law Review, Forthcoming, Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2020/19, Available at SSRN:

Bernard James (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

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