Restorative Justice Practices in U.S. Schools

Restorative justice is an approach to offending behavior that focuses on repairing harm and restoring relationships, rather than just punishing the perpetrator. Schools are increasingly adopting restorative justice to address concerns about overuse of exclusionary punishment of students.

Given this popularity of restorative justice, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded WestEd to provide a more comprehensive picture of restorative justice in elementary and secondary schools nationwide. WestEd produced multiple descriptive and complementary pieces of research:

  • A comprehensive literature review of restorative justice in the schools to identify conceptual models, document issues, and any empirical research that had been reported, and provide clues to identifying persons and schools involved in current implementation. The review focused on key issues in implementation of restorative justice, describing the main conceptual and program models, and synthesizing empirical results.
  • An environmental scan of schools and districts to identify restorative justice approaches in the field. The research team identified the variety of restorative justice programs in schools. Specifically, the team conducted interviews with leading experts and key informants, and conducted an online survey of program staff in the field to gather quantitative data to complement findings from the interviews.

The results of these research tasks informed future research and practice regarding restorative justice in schools in the United States.