Are we in need of restorative practices in our schools and colleges?

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Discipline is a very important element of any school or college. Any parent before admitting their child in school or college ensures that the school has strict discipline policies against the violations that take place. All students of course are not equal, some are shy in nature, some are very aggressive, and some have a bad habit of bullying. We see all these diverse natures dwelling in schools and colleges. The administrations are solely responsible to maintain effective and rigid discipline policies which are strictly followed by students, staff and faculty members.

Some of the schools around the world have started adopting the “Restorative Approach” practice in their school premises, since past few years. Most of you may not be aware of this approach of maintaining discipline and controlling bad behavior in schools and colleges. Hence, today I bring you an informative blog based on Restorative Justice, which can be implemented in schools to avoid severe discipline issues and punishment of students.

But first, the question here lies is, what is Restorative Justice?

People have their own way of defining the term restorative justice. Each one of them have a different perspective of viewing the practices involved in restorative approach. For instance the below definition on restorative justice as stated in an article by Centre by Justice and Reconciliation, is:

“Restorative Justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that allow all willing stakeholders to meet, although other approaches are available when that is impossible. This can lead to transformation of people, relationships and communities.”

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In simple words, restorative justice refers to the strategies and methods used by schools and teachers to prevent and resolve bad incidents from happening that would affect any relationship. It can also erase and improve problems such as bullying, classroom disruption, truancy and poor attendance, antisocial behavior, and disputes between pupils, their families, and members of staff.

Restorative approach does not only refer to end matters based on serious discipline issues, it is also a way to help teachers avoid giving severe punishments to students. For instance, many teachers make the trouble making students stand out the class or send them to the dean’s office. Does that help? No, it can make the situation go worse. The student may start hating the teacher and repeat his/ her actions to create more trouble. Also, the teacher’s act of punishing the student by making him/ her stand out of the class result in missing all the work done in class. All this points against the teacher, because teachers are trained in class management skills and are well aware of their students’ psychology too.

How does it work?

In Restorative Justice, the victims and the perpetrators, both are given the chance to communicate with each other to resolve the matter and how the repair needs to be done. When executed, the offenders learn to understand the consequences of their behavior and take responsibility for repairing the harm. This gives the victim a surety that the perpetrators forsake their actions and will not cause any harm to them in future. This helps them to recover from the incident and also enhances their confidence level.

How to implement?

The schools who wish to incorporate Restorative Justice can implement the following techniques:

  1. Holding Conferences:

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Restorative justice in schools can involve holding conferences between the perpetrator and the victim with a mediator. This technique of conferencing can be used to resolve most serious incidents, such as bullying or harassment to reduce the use of segregations or, when exclusions cannot be avoided, to support the successful reintegration of the debarred student.

  1. Peer Meditation

Peer mediation involves trained school students supporting in resolving less serious incidents of conflict among students.

  1. Informal Restorative Approach

School staff can also use restorative approaches more informally in dealing with behavior problems.

Why are schools adopting restorative justice?

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  • Both students and teachers are empowered to get their conflicts resolved positively.
  • It allows teachers to express why the students’ behavior is unacceptable and lets the student take full responsibility for his/ her actions.
  • Restorative approach provides a platform for both student and teacher, to develop a clearly delineated agreement to ensure the behavior does not happen again.
  • It helps in reducing the incidents of bullying, physical fighting, and decreased the number of suspensions and expulsions of students in schools.
  • It creates a safer environment for teachers and students resulting in effective and productive learning outcomes.

In the end….

I would like to conclude this blog by stating that restorative practices keep students in school, involved in positive learning, rather than removing them for suspension and expulsion.

Think deeply, and try this approach in your schools and classrooms. I’m sure you will feel the difference.

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