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Fact Sheet: Creating Positive School Discipline

Human Rights, School Climate and Discipline

Every young person has the human right to a high quality education and to learn in a safe, respectful school environment that protects human dignity. Research has shown that punitive, zero-tolerance approaches to discipline do not prevent or reduce misbehavior, but actually have negative impacts on learning.i Instead, school discipline should be part of the educational process to support students' full development. Growing numbers of schools are using positive approaches to discipline that improve school climate and learning.

Restorative Practices

Restorative practices (or restorative justice) is used to build a sense of school community and resolve conflict by repairing harm and restoring positive relationships through:

  • Using regular classroom circles to work together with students to set academic goals, explore the curriculum, and develop core values for the classroom community;

  • Training teachers and staff in classroom management to increase communication and work with students to reflect on how their actions impact others; and

  • Using small group circles, fairness committees and peer juries when disciplinary issues happen to talk with students involved about the causes of the issues and identify positive solutions to repair the harm done to the community through responses such as mediation, community service, conflict resolution, etc.

Social Discipline Window

Social Discipline Window

(From the International Institute for Restorative Practices) Restorative practices are about schools doing things with students, rather than to them or for them.

What the Data Show

Denver Public Schools adopted new discipline policies in 2008-2009 that use restorative justice, resulting in a 68% reduction in police tickets in schools and a 40% reduction in out-of-school suspensions.ii

West Philadelphia High School was on the state's "Persistently Dangerous Schools" list for six years. But after one year of implementing restorative practices, the climate has improved dramatically:

  • Suspensions were down by 50% in the 2007-2008 school year,iii and
  • Violent acts and serious incidents dropped 52% in 2007–2008, and another 40% by Dec 2008.iv

Chicago Public Schools adopted a new student code of conduct in 2006 incorporating restorative practices. Over 50 high schools in Chicago now have restorative peer
jury programs. As a result:

  • Over 1,000 days of suspension were avoided in 2007-2008 by referring students to peer jury programs for violating school rules, keeping them in the learning environment,"v
  • At Dyett High School, student arrest rates decreased by 83% one year after implementing a restorative peer jury program.vi
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