Synthesis of Professional Articles

How Teachers View Restorative Justice

The WeAreTeachers staff’s article, “What Teachers Need to Know About Restorative Justice” and Melanie Asmar’s article, “Inside one of three Denver schools serving as a national model for how to do discipline differently” discuss the effects that teachers and other school staff members have observed of restorative justice implementation in their schools. According to Asmar, restorative justice “is an approach to school discipline that focuses on repairing harm rather than doling out punishment,” (Asmar, 2018). Both articles focus on the impacts that the techniques have had on the students and what approaches different schools have taken in terms of integrating restorative justice.

One of the biggest observed impacts of restorative justice in schools is the changes in culture, specifically the relationships between the teachers and students. Restorative justice implemented the right way in the eyes of teachers, is not just about the process but rather about an entire transformation in the atmosphere of the school. Roxanne Claason describes the attitude she takes towards implementing restorative justice in the classroom. She states when finding a solution she says, “‘Here’s the problem. What can we do to fix it?’ The message you’re sending the child is, ‘I’m not against you; I’m for you. I want you to succeed,’” (Claason, quoted by WeAreTeachers staff, 2019). The importance of building trust in student-to-teacher relationships is recognized by most teachers building a restorative justice school. One student from North High School in Denver, Colorado, one of the first schools in the nation to try restorative justice, reflects, “The adults in this building care about me,” (Kevin Gilbert, quoted by Asmar, 2018) a significant change from his previous school in Baltimore.

Teachers who implement these restorative justice methods see the difference in the climate of their schools versus other schools. They observe the close relationships that teachers have with students, and they notice the conversations that occur after minor offenses, such as arriving late to class. Of course, teachers recognize the need to address these offenses, but they also recognize that the solution to preventing students from misbehaving is to search for the root of the problem, rather than simply cutting off the branches.