Restorative School Discipline: It’s
About Engagement, Not Enforcement
By William A. Bledsoe, Ph.D.
“Students do well if they can, not because they’re forced to.” 1
n the last 10 to 15 years schools have begun to pursue restorative approaches to stu-
dent conduct as a way to build safe and connected school communities. The restorative
approach interprets disruptive behavior as an opportunity for deeper engagement and
problem solving with the student. Rather than trying to control behavior through coercion,
the restorative approach emphasizes collaboration with the student to help them:
• Understand and take responsibility for the impact of their actions on themselves and others
• Explore the precedent thinking, motivations, and unmet needs underlying their actions
• Recognize the importance of treating themselves and others with respect and consideration
• Repair any harm and make better choices moving forward.
Studies indicate that restorative approaches can lead to decreases in disruptive behavior
in the classroom, decreases in incidents of harassment and bullying, lower rates of formal
disciplinary measures such as suspension and expulsion, and increases in pro-social norms
and academic performance. 2
1. Quinn, Kerri (2016). Personal conversation
2. Gonzales, T. “Keeping Kids in School: Restorative Justice, Punitive Discipline, and the School to Prison Pipeline.” Journal
of Law and Education, vol. 41, no. 2, 2012, pp. 281-335.
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