Restorative Practices

Restorative Practices

Available to all pre-k through 12 schools in Maine, Maine School Safety Center’s (MSSC) FREE Restorative Practices Training, Creating a Culture of Care in Schools Using Restorative Practices, aims to provide schools with the tools needed to help create an environment of safety, belonging, and accountability for students, staff, and community members that increases learning while reducing undesirable behavior and exclusionary discipline.

Just as there are specific basic skills that students must learn to read, swim, do multiplication, or drive a car, there are skills that humans need to build relationships, show compassion and empathy for others, be accountable for their missteps, and repair harm to relationships or their community when necessary.

The skills staff learn in this training help them to:

  • Build trust and better relationships with colleagues, students, and families
  • Improve communication
  • Identify and apply consistent responses to typical student behavior
  • Handle minor behavior in the classroom
  • Create a team that will respond to more serious behavior using Restorative Principles and develop re-entry plans for students who have been out of school for an extensive period

Creating a Culture of Care in Schools Using Restorative Practices

Please read this program description for additional details.

Please read this scope and Scope and Sequence for additional details.

Why use Restorative Practices in schools?

Restorative Practices are not a new concept. They are grounded in teachings and philosophies of First Nation, Māori and other indigenous communities, where they have been used for decades. These practices found their way into Western cultures as Restorative Justice, a victim-centered response that seeks to address harm through accountability and relationship repair used in the Juvenile Criminal Justice system (J/CJ). These concepts were introduced in educational settings as a response to zero tolerance disciplinary policies that entered the education vernacular as a response to school violence, in particular school shootings, in 1994, with the passage of the Gun Free Schools Act. Restorative Justice in Education was primarily a response to undesirable behavior, and emulated processes seen in law enforcement, such as restorative circles, conferences and conversations based on structured questions designed to identify who was harmed and how the relationship could be repaired.

However, school based Restorative Practices have evolved beyond a response to behavior into a more whole child approach which aligns with the Maine DOE’s whole student philosophy and attends to the social/emotional as well as the physical/intellectual needs of students, recognizes the importance of the group to establish and practice agreed-upon norms and rules, and emphasizes prevention and early restorative intervention to create safe learning environments (Riestenberg, N., 2001).

School-based Restorative Practices are primarily preventive and focus on building relationships amongst staff and students to create a safe, equitable environment for learning where all feel safe expressing their needs and concerns. While most people think of Restorative Practices as circles or conferences, responses exist on a continuum, and, when applied with fidelity, lessen the necessity for stronger responses over time. Restorative practices center the majority of staff and student time on building community, creating, and articulating collaborative classroom expectations and using affective language in one-on-one conversations to address minor missteps or conflict in the classroom as situations arise.

When there is a need for a response for more serious behavior, Restorative Practices provide a framework for helping students to take accountability for their actions, understand how their choices impact others, and work collaboratively to repair harm they may have caused. Additionally, Restorative Practices provides guidelines for re-integrating students into the school community after extended absence for whatever reason.

Code of Conduct

 A Restorative Code of Conduct will put your school or district in alignment with Maine law, as described below (for full statute visit here):

15-A. School disciplinary policies. When revising the prescribed consequences for violation of the student code of conduct pursuant to subsection 15, paragraph C, a school board shall consider districtwide disciplinary policies that:

B. Focus on positive and restorative interventions that are consistent with evidence-based practices rather than set punishments for specific behavior and avoid so-called zero-tolerance practices unless specifically required by federal or state laws, rules or regulations. For the purpose of this paragraph, "restorative interventions" means school practices that are designed to strengthen relationships, improve the connection to school and promote a strong sense of accountability and that help students learn from their mistakes, understand the impact of their actions on others and find opportunities to repair the harm they have caused through their misbehavior; [PL 2011, c. 614, §7 (NEW).]



Stacey Barlow
Restorative Practices Coordinator
Phone: 207-446-8313