Groups pushing Restorative Justice in Schools
- Teachers' Union
(This is a preliminary list of groups currently pushing restorative justice/progressive discipline in K-12 schools. We will add to it as we learn more.)
American Federation of Teachers
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is the country’s largest teacher union, with 1.7 million members. In the 2022 election cycle, they spent $1,450,000 on lobbying.
In 2014 AFT created the resolution, “Support Restorative Justice Programs in Schools that Received Public Funds.” The resolution contains statements like “there is a crisis of criminalization in this current generation of our nation’s youth, which has come to be known as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” that begins with student suspensions, expulsions, push-outs, referrals to alternative institutions, and arrests in our public schools that increases and exacerbates our nation’s tragedy of mass incarceration.”
RESOLVED, that the AFT will advocate for funds to place restorative justice coordinators/trainers and support staff in every school with the goal of promoting positive learning environments that foster meaningful student relationships to develop self-worth, cultivate emotional well-being, culturally relevant and culturally responsive curriculum, and help produce responsible citizens.
AFT’s 2023 Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action emphasized restorative justice. For example, the Chicago Teachers Union hosted a “virtual student panel on reimagining school safety, exploring the demand to end zero-tolerance discipline policies and implementing restorative justice systems and funding for “counselors, not cops.”
American School Counselor Association
According to its website, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) “supports school counselors’ efforts to help students focus on academic, career and social/emotional development so they achieve success in school and are prepared to lead fulfilling lives as responsible members of society.”
ASCA supports “restorative practices.” Their website features a Restorative Practices in Action video.
A Fresh Start with Restorative Practices, an article on their website from 2018, states, “Restorative practices, sometimes referred to as restorative justice, are a way to hold students accountable for their actions while building relationships of unconditional positive regard.”
A 2021 paper from The University of Vermont, “Real Meaningful Change Comes from Building Relationships”: School Counselor’s Experiences Implementing Restorative Practices, says of ASCA,
It is not surprising that school counselors are taking a lead in this effort [implementing Restorative Practices] given that as a profession, the American School Counseling Association (ASCA) and the extant school counseling literature has demonstrated a commitment to interrupting systemic impediments to student success (ASCA, 2012; Mason, Robertson, Gay, Clarke, & Holcomb-McCoy, 2021; Smith et al., 2017). To date, RP holds promise to offer a path towards greater equity within schools (Gregory, Skiba, & Mediratta, 2017)
BASE Education is a private, for-profit online mental health platform for students to “tackle mental health topics.”
BASE Education includes a restorative practices module in its content. According to BASE’s website, restorative practices include prevention, intervention, and, which, alongside SEL, can lead to “reductions in exclusionary practices, and reduce disproportionality in discipline.”
BASE is recommended by Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a large educational consulting firm focused on implementing social-emotional learning in k-12 classrooms.
According to its website, BASE was one of the first online SEL platforms listed on CASEL’s Program Guide for Effective Social Emotional Learning Programs.
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) was founded in 1994 to “establish high-quality, evidence-based SEL as an essential part of preschool through high school education.” Since then, they have become a leader in implementing social-emotional learning in America’s k-12 schools. Over the past several years, they have increasingly pushed for “restorative justice” in the classrooms.
According to their 2021 study, “Restorative Practices and SEL Alignment,” “Both social and emotional learning (SEL) and restorative practices (RP) are used to systematically and intentionally build equitable learning environments in schools.”
One feature of the “restorative practices” featured in CASEL’s research is “responsive circles” intended to bring together the aggressor and the victim to “make things right.”
Edutopia, part of the George Lucas Foundation, “is dedicated to transforming K-12 education so that all students can acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to thrive in their studies, careers, and adult lives”
Their website features numerous restorative justice articles such as “What the Heck Is Restorative Justice?” and “8 Tips for Schools Interested in Restorative Justice.”
Mindful Schools is a non-profit, 501c3, whose vision is “for all children to learn in mindful schools that nurture a new generation of leaders to create a more equitable and thriving world.”
One of the articles on their website, “Restorative Justice in Schools: SEL in Action” states the following about Restorative Justice and equity.
Restorative justice views “harm” as a fracturing of relationships, rather than something that demands punishment. A restorative justice process is a way to uncover true needs and heal relationships via meaningful accountability.
Restorative justice originates from an indigenous paradigm – it is community based, relational, and inclusive. The process creates equity by giving everyone a space to talk and be heard and by addressing the root cause of harm.
One of their Core Values is “We Live Liberation: We actively practice anti-racism and encourage others to, as well. We hold ourselves accountable in our commitment to an equitable world.”
In addition to offering Restorative Justice training and resources, Mindful Schools offers educator trainings, consultation, and custom course support.
National Education Association
The National Education Association is the country’s largest lobbying group, with over 3 million members. Their website’s “Professional Excellence” resources offer advice for Restorative Practices.
Searching for “Restorative Practices” on their website returns nearly 1,000 results. The website describes Restorative Practices as “Alternatives that don’t push out an excessive number of students, don’t create wide racial disparity gaps, and that overall foster a more inclusive and constructive learning environment.”
In the 2022 election cycle, the NEA spent $2,960,000 on lobbying efforts.
Panorama Education is a K-12 educational consultant. Panorama Education’s mission is “to radically improve education for every student.” One of their core values is “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.”
Panorama’s website features a Restorative Practices toolkit published in 2021. The toolkit features “5 restorative practices”. Notably, Panorma says the toolkit is intended for school leaders, and the website says, “District Leaders: Share this toolkit with your school leaders to start the conversation about the role of restorative practices in nurturing social-emotional learning and strengthening your MTSS.”
According to its website, “PTA is comprised of millions of parents, teachers, grandparents, caregivers, foster parents and other caring adults who share a commitment to improving the education, health and safety of all children. We speak with one voice for every child.”
The National PTA is a proponent of Restorative Justice. Their July 2020 Position Statement on Addressing Institutional Racism says, “School staff should also be provided professional development in mental health, trauma-informed care and restorative justice to provide a safe, inclusive environment for all students.”
Their policy priorities for the 117th Congress (January 2021-January 2023) says, “Policies and Legislation Must: Encourage schools to use positive behavioral interventions and supports that are effective, fair and consistently implemented. Such practices may include restorative justice and trauma-informed care.”
Restorative Justice in Education
Restorative Justice in Education is a non-profit, 501c3, whose mission is “To use Restorative Justice Principles and Practices to foster culturally appropriate relationships and interactions.”
They offer in-person and online trainings focused on restorative justice principles. Some course titles include:
Culture of Care for School Boards & Superintendents
Culture of Care Code of Conduct Collaborative Rewrite
The School Superintendents Association
The School Superintendents Association (AASA) is a trade association for public school leaders.
AASA has been pushing restorative justice since at least 2014. In 2014 they printed a resource guide that includes reports such as “Parent-to-Parent Guide: Restorative Justice in Chicago Public Schools. Stopping the School-to-Prison Pipeline. A COFI Project Fall 2012.”
Another AASA report, “Reforming Discipline in Denver Public Schools: Three-Pronged Approach for Equity & Justice” describes “restorative justice” in Denver Public Schools (DPS)” that focused on equity. According to the report, “DPS then focused on ensuring due process through an equity lens both for suspensions and for expulsions.”
United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, “works in the world’s toughest places to reach the most disadvantaged children and adolescents – and to protect the rights of every child, everywhere.” And according to its website, they are “non political and impartial.”
UNICEF supports restorative practices in schools. According to their 2022 blog post The role of restorative practice in reducing violence in schools restorative practices, “…provides a strong framework within which we can promote a whole-school ethos founded on the importance of relationships. This includes a range of approaches to managing conflict and tensions in a way that repairs harm and mends relationships if and when those relationships do break down.”
Weareteachers.com is a website and “proud community” of over 3 million educators. Their website states, “We’re in this together, advocating for educator voices to be heard, for better teacher pay and working conditions, and for a more sustainable and inclusive teaching profession.”
The website also features statements like “Teachers are the Real Education Experts” and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are at the Heart of Our Work.”
Their article What Teachers Need To Know About Restorative Justice says, “Restorative justice is a theory of justice that focuses on mediation and agreement rather than punishment. Offenders must accept responsibility for harm and make restitution with victims.” The article cites Oakland Unified School District as a success story for implementing restorative principles.
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
Panorama Education Inc.