The Education Practice Team strives to find innovative and solution-oriented approaches for student misconduct matters. In a typical student misconduct scenario, an accused student risks suspension or expulsion from school without accepting responsibility for his/her actions. The harmed individual(s) may feel safer if the accused is sent away, but never really obtains any acknowledgment of the harm that occurred. Also, the institution never really addresses the underlying issues contributing to the misconduct and how the values of the institution were disregarded. In the end, all parties involved often feel dissatisfied.
Restorative justice seeks to address both individual instances of student misconduct and broader conflicts that threaten to damage the educational community. RJ ensures that the harm rather than the person is put in the center of the conflict, and in so doing, creates space to repair the harm.
Restorative justice facilitators select from three different systems: prevention circles, response conferences and restorative justice boards. These interventions focus on understanding the harm caused, how to repair the harm, how to prevent reoccurrence, and how to ensure safer communities. Through the application of the correct restorative justice model, the injured party can heal from the harm and the offender can take responsibility for his/her behaviors and be held accountable, all while knowing that there is room for healing and reintegration.
Restorative justice processes are helpful in a number of misconduct cases such as:
- Sexual offenses;
- Alcohol and drug cases;
- Plagiarism charges and academic misconduct matters;
- Vandalism and other property offenses;
- Bias and other forms of gender, race, religion and national origin harassment;
- Bullying and hazing incidents;
- Telecommunication (social media) harassment; and
- School violence.
While restorative justice shares some similarities with mediation, there are significant differences. RJ works to ensure accountability through a collaborative rather than adversarial process. Offenders must commit to taking full responsibility for their actions. There can be no victim blaming or non-admission of guilt. Also, co-facilitators spend significant amounts of time before the formal restorative justice session to ensure the session is productive. Strict guidelines are established to prevent revictimization and to help ensure that all participants have an equal opportunity to participate and be heard.