The purpose of this article is to explain the pressing need for school-based restorative justice as a philosophy and mechanism to alter increasingly negative school climates, redress educators' retributive orientation to student behavior, and redirect the school-to-prison pipeline. Part I discusses the manifestations ofthe current crisis in education. Although zero tolerance was intended to increase school safety, recent studies attest to the severe iatrogenic consequences including high rates of in-school and out-of-school suspensions, ever-increasing racial disparities in the use of punishment, the misuse of harsh disciplinary procedures with traumatized youth, and growing evidence of educator dropout that parallels the failure of students to complete school. Part II provides background on school-based restorative justice. Besides defining the concept of restorative justice, this part focuses on its application to education, the constituents of a whole school approach, and the rapid growth that is occurring throughout the United States. Part III examines the evidence for this approach. Although the use of school-based restorative justice is still in its infancy, numerous studies attest to dramatic reductions in suspensions, increased school attendance, improved academic achievement, lower student drop out rates, financial savings, and decreases in racial disproportionality. Part IV explores the rapid and emerging legislative and institutional response to school-based restorative justice that threatens to upend a process that requires time and precision in implementing a complex, contextualized, and nuanced shift in how educators approach student behavior. In response, efforts to take school-based restorative practices to scale in Texas are described followed by a list of Thirteen Best Practices that provide a values-based guide to whole school implementation. Part V is a call to action that positions social-based restorative justice as an antidote to the fallout from exclusionary punitive practices and a mechanism to enhance those school controlled factors that influence school climate. This part also highlights the likelihood of backlash if implementation of the restorative approach is too rapid or applied without careful consideration to the change process. It concludes with recommendations for how the legal profession can support the successful adoption of school-based restorative justice.
Restorative Practices: Righting the Wrongs of Exclusionary School Discipline,
U. Rich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.richmond.edu/lawreview/vol50/iss3/9