Restorative discipline practices in alternative education

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Michael Daniel Bayless (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Craig Peck

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine how Pleasant Academy (a pseudonym), implemented and experienced Restorative Practices. This approach represents an alternative to traditional, punitive disciplinary actions, such as suspension or expulsion. Mansfield et al. (2018) maintained that Restorative Practices did not have a single definition but rather represented “a multitude of positive behavioral support approaches in a school that foster communication, mutual respect and understanding between people” (p. 306). Restorative Practices is a term that embraces an emergent movement to address school discipline in a non-punitive, relationship-focused, and collaborative approach (Losen, 2014). Restorative Practices focuses on building healthy communities, increasing social capital, decreasing anti-social behavior, and repairing harm to restore relationships (Wachtel, 2016). My overall goal in the study was to examine and describe new practices utilized by educators within Pleasant Academy and compare these new practices with methods the school previously used (e.g., out-of-school suspension). I am the principal of this school, so the methodology I used was qualitative inquiry with a focus on practitioner inquiry, where I was not only a researcher but also a participant. I interviewed staff and coded their interviews to identify themes. I also analyzed out-of-school suspension data and the North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey before, during, and after the implementation of Restorative Practices. As a result of my study, I found that participants described several elements and practices that were critical to the success of Restorative Practices at Pleasant Academy. All participants recognized that Restorative Circles are the most powerful component of the Restorative Process in that they develop relationships between students and staff and reactively respond to wrongdoing, problems, and conflicts. Every participant also recognized relationship-building as a critical component of the Restorative Process. In addition, most of the participants cited the school’s positive culture and climate for the successful implementation of Restorative Practices, and many of the staff indicated in their interviews how their attitudes towards Restorative Practices changed after implementation. I also discovered that Pleasant Academy’s out-of-school suspension rate dropped 73% in the first year of implementation of Restorative Practices. School districts with high out-of-school suspension rates may benefit from Restorative Practices if they have staff buy-in and maintain consistent practices throughout the school setting. Also, implementing Restorative Practices involves changing years of traditional mindsets. 100% buy-in will not occur, but once staff members see successes like they did at Pleasant Academy, more will likely join the process.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2022
Racial Disparities, Restorative Circles, Restorative Practices, School to prison pipeline, Social Implications, Zero tolerance policies
Restorative justice in schools
School-to-prison pipeline
Alternative education

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