Implementing Restorative Justice in Schools
University of Denver’s Paul Gerard Cama’s dissertation, “Restorative Injustice: A Study of Failed Implementation of Restorative Practices at an Urban High School” and the Trevor Fronius, Sean Darling-Hammond, Hannah Persson, Sarah Guckenburg, Nancy Hurley, and Anthony Petrosino’s article, “Restorative Justice in U.S. Schools” both focus on the impacts that restorative justice has on schools, specifically addressing the ways to successfully implement restorative practices to receive the greatest results. According to Trevor Fronius et al.’s article “Restorative justice is a broad term that encompasses a growing social movement to institutionalize non-punitive, relationship-centered approaches for avoiding and addressing harm, responding to violations of legal and human rights, and collaboratively solving problems,” (Trevor Fronius et al., 2019, p. 1). Although restorative justice techniques are growing in popularity in schools, it is crucial to realize that like every new method, there are correct and incorrect ways to implement the system, and the scholarly research found in these articles focuses on how to succeed in implementing these practices.
One of the most important characteristics that a school needs in order to implement restorative justice techniques is a full staff buy-in. This includes the staff of a school taking the necessary steps in order to learn the philosophy of restorative justice. It is important that leaders of these programs dedicate time and resources to instilling the philosophy of restorative justice into the other staff members. Cama writes, “that restorative practices were most effective when there was a visible commitment, enthusiasm, and more importantly, modeling by school leadership,” (Cama, 2019, p. 105). The staff of these schools should have many ways of accumulating the restorative justice behaviors, such as working one-on-one with skilled facilitators, shadowing those with experience, as well as frequent meetings to receive feedback on each teacher’s progress (Trevor Fronius et al., 2019, p. 13).
Perhaps the most important part of implementing restorative justice in schools is that teachers and other staff are aware of the amount of dedication required of them to reach the full potential of restorative justice. Without the necessary time spent preparing to integrate these practices in a school, the restorative justice techniques will simply be viewed as an alternative to punitive punishment, rather than the creation of an entirely new philosophy within the culture of the school.