What can we do about it? The message you send to the child is, “I am not against you; I am for you. I want you to succeed,” Claassen points out. In addition, restorative justice in schools requires a promise of time and money from the district and its administration. There are several examples of schools that provide funds for the implementation of the program, but do not let the money be spent. Other districts encourage teachers to use restorative justice, but offer little or no training or support. And some teachers are simply wary of devoting themselves to another new program meant to solve all their problems if they already have enough on their plate. Statistics show that the use of restorative practices keeps children in school. Criminal justice systems often remove students from the classroom, even in the case of minor infractions. With restorative justice, everyone works together to keep children in the classroom where they can learn. Children expelled from school often end up in what education reform activists call the “school-prison pipeline.” Restorative justice wants to stop this cycle and keep children on track in their education.

The program is based on respect, responsibility, relationship building and relationship repair. Schools like OUSD use a three-step approach. Level I focuses on building a strong community within the school and lays the foundation for responsibility and respect. Level II attempts to resolve conflicts and repair damage to students, while Level III supports students who will return to the school community after suspension or expulsion. It also offers one-on-one support. “Instead of making relationships more difficult, it brought us closer together and improved our interactions.” Within a few years, the success of these programs has led to research on restorative justice in schools, especially in those that have suffered from high rates of student misconduct. . . .