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Restorative Practices & Restorative Justice


Restorative practices (RP) is a philosophy and social science that focuses on building community through individual reflection and interpersonal connection as well as productively addressing harm through collaborative problem-solving. The restorative approach is a world-wide movement and originally became popularized through the juvenile justice systems in New Zealand and Canada. Steeped in the belief that all humans have value and purpose, restorative practices are a prevention-based framework and a relationship focused mindset that allows the space for individuals to be seen, heard and accepted. When implemented effectively, restorative practices have the capacity to cultivate belongingness and trust, thereby creating cohesive communities wherein every member is valued and supported. RP works both systemically and systematically to deepen understanding through empathy while strategically designing systems and policies that support varied needs and elevate unique strengths. While restorative practices primarily focus on building relationships and promoting respect, there exists a subset of efforts targeted towards transforming conflict and repairing harm when a negative incident occurs. These reactive efforts are considered restorative justice.
















There is often confusion about the delineation between restorative practices and restorative justice. Restorative justice is reactive whereas restorative practices is proactive. When responding to harm and/ or addressing legal matters, it is called restorative justice (RJ). Restorative justice is a collection of processes that involve bringing all concerned parties together to authentically repair harm and ultimately bring justice to those most impacted in a guided process to determine what harm has been done and what needs to be done to repair that harm to the greatest extent possible. Conflict resolution and repair is only half of the restorative equation. The bulk of the action takes place on the prevention end of the continuum which are considered restorative practices (RP).











The restorative framework is a prevention-based and tiered approach which includes a wide range of processes and concepts that are sequenced from universal (prevention) to intensive (intervention). As a prevention-focused approach,
restorative practices leverages substantial outcomes from relationship-focused efforts. Establishing authentic relationships opens the doors to deeper connections and ultimately a better understanding of individuals’ backgrounds. Once a
foundation of a relationship is established, respect and trust can be achieved. The more one possesses respect for other individuals as well as their community, the more likely one is to nurture that community.







Restorative practices leverage substantial outcomes from relationship-focused efforts. Establishing authentic relationships opens the doors to deeper connections and ultimately a better understanding of individuals’ backgrounds. Once a
foundation of relationship is established, respect and trust can be achieved. The more one possesses respect for other individuals as well as their community, the more likely one is to nurture that community.

As a tiered approach, the restorative continuum works as a scaffolded framework that supports individuals as well as the community through efforts of prevention as well as intervention. Tier one supports are prevention-based and involve all members of the community. In restorative practices these efforts are in service to developing relationships and building community through connection circles and collective decision making. Tier two supports are specifically tailored and responsive to demonstrated needs and involve only some individuals of the community. Tier three interventions are intensive and involve a select few individuals of the community who present exceptional needs. While RP is in fact a tiered model, many practitioners experience a cyclical nature in relation to the restorative continuum. Once a tier three repair occurs the restorative trajectory leads back to tier one efforts of relationship and respect.


The principles and values that embody and guide the restorative work of Douglas County School District are the 5Rs Framework:

Relationship, Respect, Responsibility, Repair and Reintegration

The 5Rs Framework is the culmination of Educator and Restorative Practitioner, Dr. Beverly Title’s life commitment to youth. Beverly was a pioneer in the field of restorative practices, and co-founder of ReSolutionaries Inc. The 5Rs were originally conceptualized with a hand in mind. With each R present, equity can be grasped. The 5Rs embody a continuum of critical components that ensure the efficacy of restorative practices. The more time and effort you commit to relationship, respect and responsibility, the less often repair and reintegration are needed. After all… you can’t repair a relationship you don’t have.








“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken [adults].”
-Frederick Douglass

Restorative practices in schools offer a systemic and systematic approach to building relationships and cultivating community as well as leveraging conflict as a catalyst for connection. While there are protocols and systems within the restorative framework, RP is not a program or curriculum. Restorative skills are more effective when personalized and tailored to the specific interests and needs of individuals and/or the community. Additionally, the framework is not just another thing for teacher’s to do. It’s an opportunity to streamline efforts that are already in place and intentionally ensure that belongingness and agency is strategically interwoven throughout day-to-day actions. Restorative practices take numerous forms and are applied in a myriad of ways. All facets of the restorative continuum are aligned with brain research and dovetail with multiple other educational tiered frameworks (PBIS, MTSS, SEL). A restorative culture maintains a relationship-centered focus, evident through behaviors, environments, and systems. Schools with a restorative culture cultivate the responsive teaching and rigorous learning needed to prevent, resolve and transform conflict. Through restorative practices a community can elevate equity, promote peace, and advance agency.


Restorative practices strategically navigate how to establish civil discipline and social capital through a human-focused approach. A foundational tenet of the restorative framework is grounded in the belief that all human beings inherently have value, purpose and a primordial need for connection to others. Up until recently, most disciplinary practices carried out in school and judicial systems were punitive. Restorative practices and restorative justice differs from punitive measures in that the focus is centered on what happened versus what rule was broken. Additionally, restorative practices focus on addressing the impact of harm on all stakeholders and collectively creating a solution to repair the harm as opposed to imposing a punishment that oftentimes does not mitigate future harmful behaviors.


Perhaps one of the most fundamental mindset shifts within the adoption of a restorative lens is the acknowledgement of behavior as communication of an unmet need. In alignment with neuroscience, restorative practices incorporate strategies that look beneath the surface of behavior, in order to appropriately address the need at the root. Restorative provides ways to proactively address those needs before the behavior presents itself, thereby allowing for more opportunities to engage in meaningful learning and connection.










The problem of racial and ethnic discipline disproportionality is both long-standing and widespread. In 1973, African American students were almost twice as likely to be suspended as white students. In 2006, African American students were more than three times likely to be suspended than their white peers (Losen & Skiba, 2010). African American students continue to face increased risk for suspension for minor misbehavior and increased risk of school suspension and expulsion for the same behavior as students from other racial/ethnic groups (Skiba et al., 2011).*
*PBIS: OSEP Technical Assistance Center, Using Discipline Data within SWPBIS to Identify and Address Disproportionality: A Guide for School Teams. 2014

Data around discipline disproportionality is nothing new. These patterns are nation-wide and are consistent across varied regions in the United States. Douglas County School District is no exception. While the demographics of Douglas County School District are predominantly white, the majority of disciplinary action involves students of color.

Data-driven decision making around discipline is an intentional and strategic approach for improving both educational systems and student outcomes; as such, it is strongly recommended by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice (2014). Rigorous collection and analysis of data serves to understand the need, identify areas for improvement, and determine appropriate action to ensure that efforts to reduce disproportionality are effective and provide guidance for adjustments that may be required. However, educators currently need specific guidance for using discipline data to assess and monitor disproportionality in a method that is both effective and efficient (Boneshefski & Runge, 2014).

Douglas County School District is committed to addressing these inequitable patterns by identifying rates of discipline disproportionality, taking steps to reduce it, and monitoring the effects of intervention on disproportionality. Disproportionality in punitive/retributive discipline blocks us from the overall objective of promoting positive outcomes for all students.

CDE Schoolview conduct data for DCSD showed that Black and Hispanic/Latino students have a risk ratio of , and Latino/a students have a risk ratio of 4.3. These metrics indicate significant disproportionality for Black and Hispanic/Latino students because the risk ratio is substantially above the federal disparate impact criterion of 1.25. Leadership teams will use their data to examine why the problem is happening and create an action plan to reduce disproportionate rates of ODRs for vulnerable student populations.








Restorative Practices looks beneath behavior for underlying causes. Addressing issues at the root allows the opportunity to meet needs proactively and prevent concerning and unhealthy behavior. Douglas County School District is committed to the prevention-based approach through a network of frameworks:

  • Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

  • Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS)

  • Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

Impact of Preventative Actions:

ADDICTION PREVENTION (drugs, tobacco, alcohol)








We believe that the restorative approach is a critical foundation for leading meaningful change towards hopeful futures for our youth while ensuring stable and healthy societies and economies. Investment in restorative practices yields
tremendous benefits for the students, staff, families and the community as a whole. As a proactive measure, RP has been effective in mitigating dropout rates and juvenile incarceration, which ultimately prevents high costs for taxpayers.
Additionally, implementation of restorative practices in schools have been linked to improvement around teaching and learning conditions. In 2019, 99% of DCSD staff strongly agreed that students “have at least one adult on staff they can trust to support them with social, emotional, or personal concerns” (CDE, TLCC Survey, 2019). Restorative practices have also shown connection to staff retention, which reduces excessive on-boarding costs. In 2019, DCSD Staff showed favorable results around school working and learning conditions:

91% (Strongly Agree)
Would recommend this school as a good place to work.

96% (Strongly Agree)
Would recommend this school as a good place for students to learn.

The financial ramifications of dropping out of school hurts more than just the student.


“It’s estimated that half of all Americans on public assistance are dropouts. If all of the dropouts from the class of 2011 had earned diplomas, the nation would benefit from an estimated $154 billion in income over their working lifetimes. Potentially feeding that number is the fact that young women who give up on high school are nine times more likely to be, or become, young single mothers. A study out of Northeastern University found that high school dropouts cost taxpayers $292,000 over the course of their lives.”

Refocusing Government Resources – A Colorado Case Study

Restorative justice may reduce government expenses as well as the high costs associated with courts and corrections. In 2012, the United States criminal system spent $130 billion for law enforcement, $60 billion for the judiciary, and $83 billion for corrections. This level of spending reflects a per capita cost of $872 per American per year. Based on a separate cost benefit analysis of restorative justice for low-risk offenders, scholars found a net benefit of $8,702 per participant across twenty-one studies. Black Americans are more likely than White Americans to be arrested for a crime; once arrested, convicted; and once convicted, sentenced more punitively. Black Americans are 5.9 times as likely – and Hispanic Americans 3.1 times as likely – to be incarcerated as White Americans (S. Silva, E. Porter-Merrill, P. Lee, Fulfilling the Aspirations of Restorative Justice in the Criminal Justice System: The Case of Colorado. 2019).


Researchers Amir Whitaker and Daniel Losen wrote the ACLU report 11 Million Days Lost: Race Discipline and Safety at U.S. Public Schools and stated that “based on economic studies of costs associated with dropping out, our research demonstrated that there are serious negative economic costs implicated by the increased dropout risks that could be attributed to suspension. Among the strongest findings on the harm from suspension come from a 2018 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Youth & Society, which concluded that after 12 years had
passed, students who were suspended were less likely to have graduated from high school or college and more likely to have been arrested or on probation.” Over a decade ago, the Department of Justice concluded that students who are suspended from school “lose important instructional time, are less likely to graduate on time and more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, and become involved in the juvenile justice system” (US Department of Justice, Assessing the Role of School Discipline in Disproportionate Minority Contact with the Juvenile Justice System. 2018)


18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office Juvenile Diversion Program


Program Description:
The diversion programs for adults and juveniles in the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office offer an alternative to the criminal justice system to some offenders. Instead of the court system, the diversion counseling programs use therapeutic interventions to promote accountability and address the underlying factors contributing to criminal and delinquent behaviors. Each person accepted into the program goes through a screening and assessment process to help guide the creation of an individualized treatment plan. Participants can make amends for their actions, gain insights into themselves and identify opportunities for self-improvement without the full weight of the justice system. In addition to helping participants, diversion helps victims and communities through programs that reduce future harm.

Return on Investment & Benefit – Cost Summary


Restorative Justice vs. Punitive (Traditional) Court Processing
Washington State Institute for Public Policy, Benefit-Cost Results: Juvenile Justice, Dec. 2019

Research AreaProgram nameTotal benefitsTaxpayer benefitsNontaxpayer benefitsCostsBenefits minus costs (net present value)Chance benefits will exceed costs

Juvenile JusticeTeen courts (vs. traditional juvenile court processing)$10,911$2,708$8,203$1,294$12,20484%
















Foundational Principles

  • Origins of Restorative Practices

  • The 5Rs Framework (Dr. Beverly Title)

  • Difference between Restorative Justice vs. Restorative Practices

  • Restorative vs. Retributive Lens

  • Alignment with other initiatives: SEL + PBIS + Trauma-Informed

Behavior as Communication

“What happened to you?” VS. “What’s wrong with you?”

  • The understanding of behavior as communication of an unmet need -Hypothesizing needs based on Maslow’s Hierarchy and functions of behavior

  • Addressing challenging behavior in such a way as to increase opportunities for connectedness

  • Acknowledging misbehavior primarily as an expression of an unmet need and secondarily as harm against human relationships as opposed to violation of a rule

  • Describing behavior in operational terms (operational descriptions are observable, measurable and complete; they lack judgment)

Restorative Language and Behavior

What you do and why you do it & what you say and how you say it

  • Intentional language and behavior that is used in order to promote connection, respect, and safety

  • Alignment of intention and actions in order to prevent unintentional harm

  • An equity-driven and culturally responsive approach to communication

  • Non-Violent Communication and Affective Statements

Restorative Readiness

  • A determination and establishment of readiness to engage in a restorative process

  • Adult self-regulation and evaluation to ensure a productive experience

  • In order to ensure a trauma informed and equitable approach, it is critical to acknowledge behavior as communication of a need that is NOT being met

  • Student considerations may include:

    • Youth with disproportionate discipline

    • IEP/504 Plan

    • Youth in transition/foster care

    • English Language Learner

    • Previous trauma

    • Known triggers?

    • Known strengths?

Fair Process and Collective Decision Making

  • A strategic process of including the voices and input of all members of the community when designing systems and/or making decisions collectively

  • Increases buy-in, participation and engagement of all stakeholders

Connection Circles

  • A facilitated group discussion to build relationships and community (classroom, staff meetings, family/community meetings)

  • One of the foundational tools of Restorative Practices

  • Preparation is beneficial

  • Circle guidelines are reviewed every time

  • Prompts are scaffolded from low to high risk.


    • Circle Formation

    • Talking Piece

    • Centerpiece

    • Guidelines

    • Check-in/Closing

    • Mindful Moment

    • Prompts

Student-Led Circles

  • Student leads circle as circle keeper

  • Prompts are student generated

  • Centerpiece items and Talking piece are from students

  • Students lead process check and/or evaluation

Academic Circles

  • Used to determine the most suitable methods of evidence for student understanding. (i.e. How would you like to demonstrate your learning?)

    • Prepare students for learning

    • Check for understanding

    • Practice skills

    • Develop vocabulary

    • Share ideas

    • Develop tips and strategies

    • Provide feedback

    • Informal determination of confidence in content

Responsive Classroom Circles

  • A community acknowledgement of harm that has been caused

  • Students are NEVER singled out (NO SHAME/BLAME)

  • Incident is framed in a positive manner.

  • (Consistent Classroom Disruption→ How do we learn our best in class?)

Restorative Agreement Conversation

  • A seven step dialogue process that leverages conflict as an opportunity for deeper connection

  • Focuses on strengths/assets and possible needs beneath the harmful behavior

  • An intentional framework that levels inherent power differentials

  • Can be with youth and adults

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