What is Restorative Practice?

  • Restorative Practices (RP) is a growing social science that studies how to improve and repair relationships between people and communities (International Institute for Restorative Practices, IIRP). Restorative Practices seeks to build strong and inclusive communities, high in compassion and high in accountability.

    RP is NOT another program. It is a paradigm shift from punishment and retribution to true accountability and teaching needed skills. Through a restorative approach we learn how we have experienced harm and caused harm. We collaborate with those affected about what needs to happen to make things right, to move forward, and to make agreements about follow through and choosing differently next time.

Basic Premises and Tenets of Restorative Practices

    1. People [Students, Staff, Parents] are happier and more likely to make positive change when those in authority do things WITH them rather than TO them or FOR them.
    2. People are hard-wired for connections. Through safe relationships with high support and high expectations, empathetic listening, caring about each other’s stories, and teaching needed skills, conditions of empowerment are created. 
    3. While it often has therapeutic effects, Restorative Practices is not therapy.
    4. Accountability, learning from our mistakes and repairing harm to relationships is central to restorative practices

Continuum of Practices at Three Tiers

  • Tier I - Informal Conversations – address behaviors among the school community to support a warm and inclusive school climate, communicating verbally and nonverbally the following: ALL STUDENTS MATTER!

    • Affective Statements; Non-Violent/Compassionate Communication: (a) Personal expressions of Observations, Feelings, Needs, and Requests (OFNR)in response to specific negative or positive behaviors of others; (b) display care and vulnerability; and (c) eliminate shaming, blaming, and finger pointing.
    • Simple Circles to get acquainted, build community, introduce curriculum, teach critical thinking skills, address issues or solve problems, and model that all voices matter.
    • Restorative Questions for inquiring more, assuming less, and developing greater understanding.  

    Tier II - Informal Restorative Conferences – address low level conflicts among students, between students and teachers, among staff, and between school and home.

    Tier III - Formal Restorative Conferences – Address more serious infractions, involving trained facilitators.



Restorative Practices Fosters Inquiry

  • 3 BASIC Restorative Questions

    1. What happened?  (Are we willing to accept there is more than one point of view? Teaches perspective taking.)

    2. Who was harmed or impacted and in what way?  (Teaches empathy)  

    3. How do we make things right and move forward? (What can YOU do to make things right? Teaches ownership and accountability by discovering needs of those harmed and those who have harmed. All voices matter.)

What Are Circles? Why Use Them?

    • Circles are used at all tiers to teach relationship and communication skills, speaking and listening, to foster healthy relationships, and to build a sense of community with a group of people.


    • Circles serve a wide variety of needs: Circles can be fun and they can be serious. They may be used to establish norms and values for student conduct in the classroom. They may be used to teach content in the classroom and used for problem solving when there are difficulties and conflicts.


    • Circles honor each voice as equally important, regardless of role or status.


    • Circles take us away from the hustle and bustle of life, including social media and television. In circle, we slow down and honor and respect each other and what each person in the circle has to say.


    • We learn to listen as well as to speak.


    • We learn about our humanity, we discover needs and how to meet them, we learn how to repair harm, and we learn to make agreements and commitments to make things right and move forward more positively and constructively.