A substantial body of research has shown that traditional exclusionary discipline practices like suspensions and expulsions are associated with negative outcomes for students, including missed instructional time, low test scores, high dropout rates, and involvement in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Exclusionary discipline also disproportionately impacts students of color and students with disabilities, among other historically underserved students. Conversely, evidence suggests that restorative practices positively impact student behavior, reduce disciplinary outcomes and disparities, and improve school culture by promoting student investment and responsibility for a shared school community. Restorative practices prevent and address conflict and wrongdoing by proactively building healthy relationships and a sense of community. Rooted in the science of learning and development—which indicates that students are most inclined to demonstrate positive behavior when their school climate and relationships inspire feelings of trust, safety, and belonging—these practices allow students to be accountable, reflect on their behavior, and make amends. Evidence shows that use of such practices improves achievement, reduces disciplinary and achievement gaps, and supports students’ mental health while making schools safer.
Implementing restorative practices requires a significant shift away from how schools and districts have traditionally approached discipline and school culture. For many, this requires unlearning harmful practices and perspectives, not only in our schools but in society at large. To aid in this transformation, the Learning Policy Institute conducts and shares research on restorative approaches, implementation, and examples at the school and district levels.