Restorative justice has gained broad popularity in school contexts in recent years in the United States. In 2009, the San Francisco Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution to establish restorative justice in the district schools as an alternative to zero tolerance discipline policies. So far, the adoption of these policies has been uneven across the district, but some progress has been made in specific schools.
Unite for Students believes that restorative justice is central policy to breaking the school to prison pipeline, since there is a clear link between zero-tolerance school discipline policies that results in an over-reliance on suspensions and expulsions and the entrance of youth into the juvenile justice system. Restorative justice focuses on repairing the harm caused by an incident or offense and prioritizes mutual respect. Most often, restorative justice engages with both the victim and the offender, as well as the community affected by an incident. In schools, restorative justice can take many different forms depending on the circumstances and provides a viable alternative to punishment-centered justice.
Restorative justice has the potential to keep more students in the classroom, off the streets, and out of the juvenile justice system. Keeping students in schools is an essential component to transforming the school to prison pipeline into a school to success pipeline.