What is Restorative Justice? 

Restorative Justice is a program based on respect, responsibility, relationship-building, and relationship-repairing. It focuses on mediation and agreement rather than punishment. It aims to keep kids in school and to create a safe environment where learning can flourish. 

The typical response to bad behavior is punishment. Restorative justice resolves disciplinary problems in a cooperative and constructive way. If a student misbehaves and a restorative justice system is in place, the offending student is given the chance to come forward and make things right. He sits down in a circle and works together with the teacher and the affected parties to work it out. 

To facilitate the process, the teacher or mediator asks non-judgmental, restorative questions like, "What happened? How did it happen? What can we do to make it right?" Through their discussions, they all gain a better understanding as to what happened, why it happened, and how the damage can be fixed. "They'll talk about what can be done to repair the harm," Yurem said about the process at OUSD, "They'll come up with a plan and fulfill that plan. And hopefully, the relationship will be stronger. It's really all about relationships - building and repairing them."

Rise Up uses a three-tiered model of prevention/intervention/supported reentry. The first tier is all about community building as a preventative measure. They have regular classroom circles in which the students sit in with a restorative justice coordinator or a peer facilitator and share their innermost feelings. The second tier is intervention, in which teachers use restorative discipline practices like conferencing and group circles to discuss and mend the harm that was done. And the final tier supports reentry of students who have been out of school. 

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