Restorative Justice in a Nutshell (by Randee-Jo Barcinas-Manglona )

RJ

What is justice?

It sounds pretty self-explanatory, right? Justice is about being fair and reasonable. We all know that. When someone commits a crime, justice gets served to them in court. We put people in jail as punishment for violating the law. This is the justice we know and see in our world today.

We witness the very same concept in a lot of our schools as well. When students go against school policy, we punish them by putting them in detention. When the actions are severe, we suspend them from school. Punishment always seems to be the option for observing justice. Now, what happens when students start to embrace and enjoy the punishment?

Suspension? No problem! Students love being able to stay home, play games, watch television, and not worry about doing homework. This should already be a sign that this type of justice is not working, at least in schools.

This is where restorative justice comes in. When practiced in schools, restorative justice replaces punishment with learning. This involves talking about wrong actions, listening to everyone’s side of the story, and allowing students to think about the causes and outcomes of such actions. Instead of locking them up in a silent room or having them clean the hallways, restorative justice allows students to sit in groups and “talk it out” – air out concerns, hear each others’ sides, and eventually learn from their mistakes. This approach acknowledges that no student is perfect, and that there is always room for improvement. It focuses more on the student, rather than the action committed. Instead of deciding how much punishment the crime deserves, we are deciding how much learning the student deserves.

  • Should restorative justice be a required practice in U.S. schools?
  • How can we make students interested in “talking it out?”
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