Restorative schools: Building healthy relationships and a better society


Today, many schools are using a more punitive measure to control misbehaviour or conflict among students or between students and teachers. In advance of RJ4All Publications forthcoming edited collection "Restorative Justice in Educational Settings & Policies: Bridging the East & West", I took time to reflect on the implementation of restorative justice in schools.

I argue that schools' punitive measures are the result of the introduction of “zero tolerance” policies since the early 1990s. As a result of this policy, expulsion and suspension increased, and that has led to the expansion of the “school to prison pipeline” seen across many schools around the world. Such exclusionary policies have devastating effects on the student because they disturb their training for society and we end up with emotionally and socially stunted students who find it hard to fit in society after their school years. I believe that socialbonds and a senseof belonging aredefining factors as to whether a person is a decent human being or not. This article argues that schools are a direct pipeline to society and that restorative schools ensurethat what comes out of that pipeline will help build a better society. If schools were to encourage their student to practice good values and ensure healthy relationships in the wider school community. We will get back into society decent human beings who might be influential leaders that promote, equality and social cohesion in all spheres of society. To get my argument across I will first discuss the role of schoolsin the lives of its students. Secondly, I will briefly discuss restorative justice and its movement to educational settings, and also, touch on the differences between schools that use restorative practices and restorative schools. Lastly, I will discuss the impact that restorative schools have on students.

Introduction

Traditionally, schools have always seen themselves as strictly providing academic training and have nothing to do with emotional and social intelligence (Marshall, 2018). By neglecting the emotional and social growth of their students, schools became more and more obsessed with maintaining order and started to rely onpunitive measures for punishment. Since the 1990s the US has been dominated by the philosophy of zero tolerance when it comes to school discipline. The term was originally developedas an approach to drug enforcement (Skiba & Rausch, 2006), the term became widely accepted in the 1990s. The policy determined consequences to misbehavior which were punitive in nature, and the policy was applied regardless of the gravity or the nature of the misbehavior (APA, 2008). Untastefully, schoolshave to do whatever means necessary to maintain a safe and disciplined environment (Ibid).

Punishment is meant to teach a good lesson that actions have consequences, and those consequences are not desired. But does punishment reallywork? And at what cost? Punishment neglects the emotional and social intelligence that students need to come to terms with their own emotions and the emotions of those around them. As a result, they end up not being able to manage conflicts with others,andthey constantly fail to recognize how their actions affect others and vice versa. The problem with a punitive measure as a disciplineis that it is stigmatizing, leaving students feeling like outcasts (Marshall, 2018). Moreover, stigmatized students tendto get more in trouble with the law hence, the school to prison pipeline. Punishment does not address the root cause of misbehavior, itstirs up fear in students while it remains ineffective. The problem with punishment is that, when it doesnot work, schools tend to up the dosage instead of finding alternative solutions to behavior (Blood & Thorsbone, 2005). Unlike rehabilitative measures, punishment fails to address the needs of the victim of school misconduct (Suvall, 2009). One know measure becoming popular to schools is restorative justice.

Restorative justice offers students a possibility to a restorative approach to their misdemeanors. Moreover, restorative justice proposes inclusiveness to the school community, giving students a sense of belonging and a feeling of being part of a social structure. The scope of restorative justice expands way beyond responses to criminal offending to include a wide range of conflict re