Implementing Restorative Practices

By: Dr. Hector Corona

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Before the Covid-19 pandemic uprooted our education system, restorative justice programs in schools were making a difference in reducing the number of Latino suspensions in California, and thereby disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline that impacts Latino students. Unfortunately, with Covid-19 disrupting social skills, relationships and academic teaching, I am afraid more students will require a larger array of intensive restorative justice practices when schools fully reopen. While some school administrators have continued with restorative approaches during online learning, other administrators will be analyzing how to implement restorative practices when they begin hybrid or full in-person learning. 

We know that the current pandemic and resulting economic downturn have created trauma in Latino families which will impact student learning. Therefore, I want to share four implementation components that will increase the effectiveness of restorative practices based on my research. 

Align the Beliefs of a School with the Ideals of Restorative Practices 

One of the challenges of restorative practices is that school administrators may not fully understand the cultural change that is required in a school. You simply can not be a restorative school if students continue to be sent out of the classrooms and suspended. School administrators need to ask their staff how serious they are about changing punitive discipline policies for restorative approaches focused on building relationships. Once a school’s staff is ready to make the commitment, the next thing to do is to see commonalities exist between the beliefs of a school with that of restorative practices. 

Parent Involvement

With restorative practices requiring a paradigm shift in people, in addition to being at opposite ends of traditional discipline, many parents do not have experience with restorative practices and do not understand how they can promote prosocial behaviors. With parents informed on the benefits of restorative practices, they will be better able to support their children and the school’s mission towards a restorative approach. If parents are given the tools to know how to have restorative conversations with their children, it will increase the importance of restorative practices so they don’t just live within the boundaries of a school campus, but something that spills into the community and their own homes.  This can help reinforce a  school’s culture of restorative justice. 

Restorative Practices Committee

Another component of implementing restorative practices is creating a committee with competent members. A committee can be the core group of individuals who support teachers about best practices in restorative practices, holds professional development for staff, has parent meetings, and helps increase the presence of a restorative culture at a school. Ideally, this committee may consist of at least one administrator, a counselor, and different grade level teachers. 

Professional Development

A final component of a comprehensive restorative practices implementation program is ongoing professional development. Restorative practices encompass many components that require continued training to fully understand how they fit into a school’s program, and how they show up in the classroom. While some schools may opt to only provide training to teachers, I strongly suggest finding the time to train all staff members. Everyone from classroom teachers, to frontline staff, aides, and custodians should receive training in restorative practices to ensure that everyone is involved in the effort. With everyone involved, school administrators will understand that restorative practices are much more than a program, it is a unique philosophical framework that can provide wrap-around services to students from everyone at a school site. 

While restorative practices require that school administrators take on new challenges and rethink priorities, research has shown that there is a place for it in our schools. From creating relationships, students and staff speaking from the heart, to making a dent in the school-to-prison pipeline, restorative practices have the potential to improve schools and make a lasting impact on students and their academic success. 

About Dr. Hector Corona

Dr. Hector Corona is an educator in San Diego, California in an inner-city K-8th grade charter school. Dr. Hector Corona holds an Ed. D. in Educational Leadership with a research focus on how leadership theories were used in the implementation of restorative practices with Spanish-speaking English learners. As the son of Mexican immigrants and the first to attend college, Dr. Hector Corona is passionate about decreasing the school-to-prison pipeline and finding paths for Latino students to continue into higher education. Si Se Puede!