Implementing Restorative Justice at Schools

Ashley, J. and Burke, K. (2009). Implementing Restorative Justice: A Guide for Schools. Chicago, IL: Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

This publication is specifically designed to provide Illinois school personnel with practical strategies to apply Restorative Justice. A variety of juvenile justice practitioners and school personnel provided guidance during the development of this guide to make it applicable for those working in elementary and secondary schools. Many school districts in Illinois already incorporate Restorative Justice philosophy in their discipline codes.
The goals of this guide are to:

  • Introduce to school personnel the concepts of Restorative Justice and restorative discipline.
  • Offer new tools that can reduce the need for school exclusion and juvenile justice system involvement in school misconduct.
  • Offer ways to enhance the school environment to prevent conflict and restore relationships after conflict arises.


Blood, P. & Thorsborne, M. (2005, March) The Challenge of Culture Change: Embedding Restorative Practice in Schools. Paper presented at the Sixth International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices: “Building a Global Alliance for Restorative Practices and Family Empowerment”. Sydney, Australia. Retrieved, July 22, 2009 from:

This paper seeks to broaden the perspectives of senior and middle management and restorative practitioners around what restorative practice in schools can look like; and to present some practical guidelines which represent a strategic approach to the implementation of restorative practices, so that they “stick” — that is, become sustainable. It represents a work in progress and the authors encourage readers to engage with them in ongoing dialogue about the issues (we don’t know all the answers yet!) and share with us their butterfly (successes) and bullfrog (failures) stories, in meeting the challenges of developing a restorative culture within schools (Zehr, 2003). It should be noted that there is an overwhelming body of literature (Hargreaves, 1997, Fullan, 2000 etc.) dealing with school reform, effective teaching, classroom and behavior
management practice and that this paper focuses on the implementation of restorative practice in schools. (excerpt)

Claassen, R. & Claassen, R. (2008) Discipline that Restores: Strategies to Create Respect, Cooperation, and Responsibility in the Classroom. South Carolina: Booksurge Publishing.

This is a restorative discipline system for schools, classrooms, and homes that parallels, contributes to, and draws from emerging international conflict resolution education, peace education, and Restorative Justice movements with emphasis on the last. (excerpt)

Holtham, J. (2009). Taking Restorative Justice to Schools: A Doorway to Discipline. Colorado Springs, CO: Homestead Press.
The global Restorative Justice movement is here to stay. Around the world, even the most dangerous, high-risk schools are reducing discipline problems by up to sixty percent. Complementing your current school discipline practices with this simple, step-by-step Restorative Justice model will help you reach youth on a core level at a critical time in their young lives, when it’s still possible to stop and reverse negative or destructive behavior. (Back cover)

Hopkins, B. (2004). Just Schools: A Whole-School Approach to Restorative Justice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Belinda Hopkins is at the forefront of the development of Restorative Justice in the UK, and in this practical handbook she presents a whole school approach to repairing harm using a variety of means including peer mediation, healing circles and conference circles. She provides clear, practical guidance for group sessions and examines issues and ideas relating to practical skill development for facilitators (publisher’s description).

Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning (1996). Respecting Everyone’s Ability to Resolve Problems: Restorative Measures. Roseville, MN: Minnesota Department of Education

This booklet applies restorative measures to deal with school-based conflicts and problems. A restorative measures approach starts from the perspective that a conflict or problem results in harm. Hence, such measures address three sets of needs: the person harmed, the person who caused the harm, and the school community. Restorative measures give school personnel a tool to use with children and youth to repair harm and to teach problem-solving skills. The booklet covers the following areas: principles of restorative measures in schools; implementing restorative measures in a school; restorative measures and violence prevention; and examples of restorative measures in Minnesota

Morrison, B., Thorsborne, M. & Blood, P. (2005). Practicing Restorative Justice in School Communities: The Challenge of Culture Change. Public Organization Review: A Global Journal. 5: 335–357.

The practice of Restorative Justice in schools has the capacity to build social and human capital through challenging students in the context of social and emotional learning. While Restorative Justice was originally introduced in schools to address serious incidents of misconduct and harmful behavior, the potential this philosophy offers is much greater. The conviction is that the key challenge for schools is addressing the culture change required to make the shift from traditional discipline, driven by punitive (or rewards based) external motivators, to restorative discipline, driven by relational motivators that seek to empower individuals and their communities. (author’s abstract).


Oakland Unified School District. (2015). Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools: Implementation and Impacts 2014 – An effective strategy to reduce racially disproportionate discipline, suspensions and improve academic outcomes. 

We are excited to share with you a comprehensive report about the implementation and potential impacts of restorative practices in Oakland Unified School District to date. After nearly a decade of implementation, we now have sufficient data to indicate how effective restorative practices are in reducing suspensions in a large urban school district, as well as show the challenges we have faced and our strategies to overcome them. This report articulates the positive difference restorative practices are making for our students, teachers/staff, and schools, to build strong community schools and reduce racial disparities in discipline and academic achievement. We hope the information provided is useful to district officials, principals, teachers, school staff, students and parents who wish to lift up restorative practices within their schools, drawing upon practices and procedures that are field tested. (excerpt)

Download Executive Summary or Full Report

Riestenberg, N. (2006). Applying the Framework: Positive Youth Development and Restorative Practices. Paper from “The Next Step: Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2,” the IIRP’s 8th International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, October 18-20, 2006, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA. Retrieved April 12, 2010 from:

This article compares the framework of positive youth development and school connectedness with the practices of restorative measures applied to harm and rule violations in schools. Formal school discipline practices of in- and out-of-school suspension have the unintended outcomes of increases in maladaptive behaviors, with drawl or avoidance of school staff, stigma among peers and poor academic achievement, among others. Restorative practices provide accountability for harm, as well as the opportunity to guide youth in their development, regardless of their experience as an offender, victim or bystander. Stories illustrate the strengths of this approach. Recommendations for school and youth programs regarding restorative measures will include suggestions for future research and evaluation. (Abstract)

Stutsman Amstutz, L. & and Mullet, J. H. (2005). The Little Book of Restorative Discipline for Schools: Teaching Responsibility; Creating Communities. Intercourse, PA: Good Books.

In this book, the authors present a restorative approach applied to the school context. Whereas punishment does little to promote responsibility, restorative discipline addresses the aim of teaching children to develop personal self-discipline. The movement in schools has roots in the peaceable schools concept, as well as movements in conflict resolution education (CRE), character education (CE), and emotional literacy (Daniel Goleman). The authors provide a number of illustrative stories. Practical applied models are also described, including whole-school training, class meetings, various types of circles, and conferencing, plus sections covering truancy mediation and bullying. (

Thorsborne, M. & Vinegrad, D. (2002). Restorative Practice in Schools: Rethinking Behaviour Management. Buderim, Queensland: Margaret Thorsborne and Associates

A ‘just’ school is a place where victims and wrongdoers and their respective communities of care are active participants in processes that ensure equal justice and fairness. Victims are empowered to have their needs met and to have their experience validated. Wrongdoers are able to tell their stories and be given the chance to make amends. And finally, the community of care may seek ways to ensure that the incident does not happen again. This book takes you through the restorative practice process with chapters on: deciding whether to conference or not, conference preparation, convening the conference, managing the emotional dynamics, what if? Appendices and case studies. (

Thorsborne, M. & Vinegrad, D. (2004). Restorative Practice in Classrooms: Rethinking Behaviour Management. Buderim, Queensland: Margaret Thorsborne and Associates

Based on the philosophy outlined in restorative practice in schools: Rethinking behaviour management, this book shows how the approach may be applied to classroom practice. Chapters include: working proactively, classroom conferences, individual, small and medium group conferences, facilitating conferences, what if? Appendices include: classroom script, the No Blame conference script, classroom conference report, classroom conference evaluation, letters to parents, case studies and recommended reading.

Thorsborne, M. & Vinegrad, D. (2009). Restorative Justice Pocketbook. Alresford, UK: Management Pocketbooks.

Schools that have adopted the ancient principles of restorative justice in their approach to disciplinary matters are reporting better relationships with young people, greater engagement in learning, and a greater development of social and emotional competence among learners. Not surprisingly, interest in restorative practices is growing. The highly visual “Restorative Justice Pocketbook” provides an introduction to restorative practice (RP) in schools. Using cartoons, diagrams and visual prompts to support the text, it begins with some background to the approach and outlines a process that offers high levels of support to both victims and culprits. (Excerpt publisher’s description)

University of Cambridge (July 2, 2009). Restorative Justice Not “Cure-All” for Schools. Retrieved on August 9, 2010 from:

This short article provides an overview of a talk Dr. Cremin gave at daylong conference at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education where she is a Senior Lecturer. The conference was titled: Working with Bullying in Schools: Exploring the Interventions. The article highlights Cremin’s cautionary perspective on viewing Restorative Justice as a cure-all for schools and her view that we need to create a culture and environment within schools so that Restorative Justice can be effective.

Wachtel, T., Costello, B. and Wachtel, J. (2009). The Restorative Practices Handbook for Teachers, Disciplinarians and Administrators. Bethelhem, PA: International Institute of Restorative Practices

This handbook is a practical guide for educators interested in implementing restorative practices, an approach that proactively builds positive school communities while dramatically reducing discipline referrals, suspensions and expulsions. The handbook discusses the spectrum of restorative techniques, offers implementation guidelines, explains how and why the processes work, and relates real-world stories of restorative practices in action. (publisher’s description)

Yoder, C. (2005). The Little Book of Trauma Healing: When Violence Strikes and Community is Threatened. Intercourse, PA: Good Books.

This is not a book of answers but of information, ideas, theories, and questions emerging from our experiences. The questions of how to work toward human security in these turbulent times without adding to the violence and trauma of our world is a huge topic without definitive answers. Sometimes it seems naïve to address the question of security in the face of enormous problems. But change begins with me, with you, with us, as together we explore, observe, listen imagine, pray, experiment and learn. (excerpt)