Living Justice Press

What are restorative practices in schools, and how does circle support those practices?

School-wide restorative practices are practices that build community and repair relationships. Specifically, they include collegial relationships between all staff, affective statements to teach, model and re-enforce empathy, restorative questions, Circle to build community, teach and repair harm. Circle Forward is a manual that can help school staff learn and use the Circle process—to build community, to teach and to repair harm. A Circle keeper can develop a deeper understanding by reading the other LJP books on Circle. This learning will help a Circle keeper grow their practice, in or out of a school.

Since one component of the Circle process is to speak with respect, everyone learns and practices how to speak in ‘I’ statements. ‘I think I believe, I feel; I feel’ is the stem of an affective statement. When people engage in repairing harm, they learn the restorative questions. The Circle Forward manual can be very useful in helping a school develop a restorative mindset and set of practices. In addition, when people sit in Circle to learn the process, they will also learn more about each other. The more we learn about each other as people, the less likely we are to hurt each other.

Outcomes Associated with Restorative Approaches in Schools

Compiled on February 9, 2016 by Jon Kidde, Green Omega L3C, P.O. Box 23, Vergennes, VT 05491,

While additional research on restorative justice (RJ) approaches in schools is needed, there is a significant and growing body of promising evidence emerging with profound and desirable outcomes. This document intends to highlight school districts and researchers who have compiled data on outcomes associated with implementing restorative approaches in schools and point readers towards original works. Please seek, read, and cite the original source.

1. Reduced Discipline Referrals and Exclusionary Practices

  • Minnesota Department of Education significantly reduced behavioral referrals and suspensions in two schools by 45% to 63% (Minnesota Department of Education, 2003, 2011).
  • In Denver, CO, district level impact has been noted in cumulative reductions in out-of-school suspensions of over 40% compared with baseline…” (Advancement Project, 2010).
  • At Cole Middle School in Oakland, CA suspensions declined dramatically by 87% and expulsions declined to zero during the implementation of whole school restorative justice (Sumner et. al, 2010).
  • Upon implementing restorative circles, West Philadelphia High School saw a 50% decrease in suspensions, along with a 52% reduction in violent and serious acts during the 2007/08 school year, followed by a further reduction of 40% during the 2008-2009 school year (Lewis, 2009).
  • Various schools in Pennsylvania saw marked reductions in fighting, cafeteria violations, misbehavior, detention, fighting, theft, classroom disruptions and suspensions after implementing restorative conferencing, circles and other practices (Mirsky, 2003).
  • In Palm Beach County, FL, two schools have seen reductions in suspension days of between 130-300 days (Schiff, 2012).
  • In San Antonio, TX, Ed White Middle School implemented RJ in 2012; they saw In-school suspensions (ISS) for conduct violations drop by 65% - 47% in 2013/14. Out of school suspensions (OSS) dropped 57% - 35% (Armour, 2014).
  • RP has promise for narrowing the racial discipline gap (Jain, et. al., 2014; Gregory, et. al., 2014).
  • In Oakland, CA, Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) levels in grade 9 doubled in RJ high schools from an average of 14% to 33% (Jain, et. al., 2014).
  • In Ed White Middle School (TX), the number of students who passed the standardized reading and math components increased substantially (Armour, 2014).
  • RJ High Schools within OUSD had a 59.9% increase in 4 year graduation rates (OUSD, 2015a)
  • Oakland Middle Schools that implemented RJ had a 24% reduction in chronic absence OUSD, 2015b) and High Schools that implemented RJ experienced a 56% decline in high school dropout rates in comparison to 17% for non-RJ high schools (Jain, et. al., 2014).
  • Oakland students said that the use of restorative justice circles enhanced ability to understand peers, manage emotions, develop greater empathy, resolve conflict with parents, improve home environment, and maintain positive relationships with peers. (Jain, et. al., 2014)

2. Improved Academic Outcomes

3. Social Emotional Learning


Advancement Project. (2010). Test, Punish, And Push Out: How Zero Tolerance And HighStakes Testing Funnel Youth Into The School To Prison Pipeline. Washington, D.C.: Author.

Armour, M. (2014) Ed White Middle School Restorative Discipline Evaluation: Implementation and Impact, 2013/2014. The Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialoggue, The University of Texas at Austin.

Encarnacao, J. (Sept., 3, 2013) approach. Sharp Drop in Suspensions as Boston Schools Try Restorative. Boston Herald. Retrieved on June 8, 2015 from:

Gregory A., Clawson, K., Davis, A., & Gerewitz, J. (2014). The promise of restorative practices to transform teacher-student relationships and achieve equity in school discipline. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation.

Jain, S., Bassey, H. ,Brown, M. and Kalra, P. (2014) Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools: Implementation and Impacts. Retrieved on June 8, 2015 from:

Kidde, J., & Alfred, R. (2011). Restorative Justice: A working guide for our schools. Alameda County Health Care Services.

Lewis, S. (2009) Improving School Climate: Findings from Schools Implementing Restorative Practices. Retrieved on October 31, 2014 from:

Minnesota Department of Education. (2003). Restorative School Grant Executive Summary. Minnesota: Minnesota Department of Education.

Minnesota Department of Education. (2011). Restorative Measures In Schools Survey, 2011 Executive Summary. Minnesota: Minnesota Department of Education.

Oakland Unified School District (2015a) OUSD Aeries Scorecard Data File. Oakland, CA: Oakland Unified School District. Retrieved on February 2, 2016 from:

Oakland Unified School District (2015b) OUSD Aeries Data 2011 – 2014 Scoreboard Data File. Oakland, CA: Oakland Unified School District. Retrieved on February 2, 2016 from:

Schiff, M. (2013) Dignity, Disparity and Desistance: Effective Restorative Justice Strategies to Plug the “School-to-Prison-Pipeline” In Center for Civil Rights Remedies National Conference. Closing the School to Research Gap: Research to Remedies Conference. Washington, DC.

Sumner, M., Silverman, C., and Frampton, M. (2011) School-based Restorative Justice as an Alternative to Zero-tolerance Policies: Lessons from West Oakland. Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.


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