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Restorative Practices: A Different Kind of School Discipline

| September 28, 2011

Laura Mirsky, writing for Educational Leadership, discusses the application and results of restorative practices in a few public schools that have implemented them. Restorative practices are an alternative to “exclusionary and punitive discipline,” according to Mirsky, such as detentions or suspensions. These practices, when used in schools, involve a focus on repairing harm by having the youth offender confront his or her behavior and responsibility for it.

Mirsky goes on to describe different types of restorative practices. A restorative conference involves each affected party discussing what happened, how it affected them, and how to repair the harm done. This tactic can show an offending child the effects of his or her actions from others’ perspectives, which can lead to future reform. Another practice is the affective statement, or a way to express feelings in a highly personal way rather than with anger or blame. According to Mirsky, such statements expressing feelings build relationships and make the consequences of one’s actions far more tangible. Finally, restorative practices can also include restorative circles, or a way to involve group dynamics in information sharing and feedback processes, which strengthens the sense of community and togetherness.

The article also describes the results enjoyed by schools using restorative practices: lower rates of misbehavior, which decreases suspensions and expulsions, and even improved academic performance. Restorative practices must be employed in conjunction with traditional discipline in order to be effective, but they are certainly worth consideration. In Texas and across the nation, school discipline is in dire need of reform—and restorative practices may be, in some situations, a good solution.

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