The Stone Stoup Project


Restorative Practices in Schools

Zero-tolerance policies became widespread in 1994, after federal legislation required states to expel for one year any student who brought a firearm to school, or lose all federal funding. It was not long before the results were showing this to be a seriously flawed practice1. Every year over three million children drop out of school2. When students are suspended and expelled from school for misbehavior they get farther behind in their studies. They have not learned correct behavior, nor have they appropriately been held accountable for their behavior. Teachers who are frustrated with growing violence in schools report they do not know what to do other than eliminating what, to many schools, seems like a “problem” to be eliminated.

According to Belinda Hopkins, author of Just Schools: A Whole School Approach to Restorative Justice, “A whole-school approach to using restorative practices contributes to:

  • Happier and safer schools,
  • Mutually respectful relationships,
  • More effective teaching and learning,
  • Reducing exclusion, and
  • Raising attendance.

The restorative approach is based on the belief that the people best placed to resolve a conflict or a problem are the people directly involved, and that imposed solutions are less effective, less educative and possibly less likely to be honored. In order to engage in a restorative approach to conflict and challenging behavior people need certain attitudes and skills. Skills-based training can develop both restorative skills and attitudes.”

In Chicago, Manley Career Academy High School and Christian Fenger Academy High School are both examples of high schools that have made a difference in a few short years by using restorative practices to reduce violence while lowering suspension and expulsion rates. Click here to read about their successes with restorative practices.

Restorative practices in schools include:

  • Circles
  • Restorative Chats
  • Conferencing
  • Peer Jury

Social Discipline Window: The social discipline window ( describes four basic approaches to maintaining social norms and behavioral boundaries. The four are represented as different combinations of high or low control and high or low support. The restorative domain combines both high control and high support and is characterized by doing things with people, rather than to them or for them. When students have the opportunity to be cared for and supported as well as to be held accountable for their actions, schools flourish and students' learning is accelerated.