Restorative Justice in Schools: Theory, Implementation, and Realistic Expectations

  • Mikhail Lyubansky
  • Dominic Barter
Part of the Peace Psychology Book Series book series (PPBS)


As data against the utility of exclusionary school discipline mounts, school districts are increasingly turning toward restorative justice as an alternative response to conflicts and rule violations. In this chapter, the author’s place this recent restorative movement into a broader historical context, describe the principles that guide the movement, and make visible the many challenges of school implementation, including getting buy-in, building the necessary infrastructure, and navigating the various power dynamics likely to be present along the way. The chapter concludes with “realistic expectations” based on both the author’s work with schools and the relevant literature examining the implementation process.


Restorative justice Schools Education Exclusionary discipline Restorative principles Implementation Expectations Power Justice system Infrastructure 


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013). Out of school suspension and expulsion. Pediatrics, 131(3), e1000–e1007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, M. D. (2015). Where teachers are still allowed to spank students. The Atlantic. Retrieved from
  3. Barter, D. (2012). Walking toward conflict. Tikkun, 27(1), 21, 70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Belden, D. (2012). Controversies around restorative justice. Tikkun, 27(1), 27–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Braithwaite, J. (2000). Repentance rituals and restorative justice. Journal of Political Philosophy, 8(1), 115–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Byer, L. (2016). Restorative practices in the school setting: A systematic review. Retrieved from Sophia, the St. Catherine University repository website
  7. Cameron, L., & Thorsborne, M. (2001). Restorative justice and school discipline: Mutually exclusive? In J. Braithwaite & H. Strange (Eds.), Restorative justice and civil society (pp. 180–194). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Christie, N. (1977). Conflicts as property. The British Journal of Criminology, 17(1), 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Corso, R. A. (2013). Four in five Americans believe parents spanking their children is sometimes appropriate. The Harris Poll. Retrieved from
  10. Dominus, S. (2016, September 7). An effective but exhausting alternative to high school suspensions. The New York Times. Retrieved from
  11. Enten, H. (2014). Americans’ opinions on spanking vary by party, race, region and religion. FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved from
  12. Farrell, C. (2015). Corporal punishment in U.S. schools. World Corporal Punishment Research. Retrieved from
  13. Gershoff, E. T. (2017). School corporal punishment in global perspective: Prevalence, outcomes, and efforts at intervention. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 22(Suppl 1), 224–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gershoff, E. T., Purtell, K. M., & Holas, I. (2015). Corporal punishment in US public schools: Legal precedents, current practices, and future policy. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  15. Gillinson, S., Horne, M., & Baeck, P. (2010). Radical efficiency: Different, better, lower cost public services. London, UK: NESTA.Google Scholar
  16. Heriot, G., & Somin, A. (2017). The Department of Education’s Obama-Era initiative on racial disparities in school discipline: Wrong for students and teachers, wrong on the law. Texas Review of Law & Politics, 22, 471–569.Google Scholar
  17. Illinois General Assembly. (2015). Senate Bill 100. Retrieved from
  18. Jason, L., & Glenwick, D. S. (2016). Handbook of methodological approaches to community-based research: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Karp, D., & Breslin, B. (2001). Restorative justice in school communities. Youth & Society, 33, 249–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kenworthy, J., Fay, C., Frame, M., & Petree, R. (2014). A meta-analytic review of the relationship between emotional dissonance and emotional exhaustion. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 44, 94–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. King, M. L. (1968). The other America. Speech delivered at Grosse Pointe High School March 14, 1968. Retrieved from
  22. Kohn, A. (2006). Unconditional parenting: Moving from rewards and punishments to love and reason. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  23. Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). 20 U.S. Code § 7961—Gun-free requirements. Retrieved from
  24. Lewis, S. (2009). Improving school climate: Findings from schools implementing restorative practices. Bethlehem, PA: International Institute for Restorative Practices Graduate School.Google Scholar
  25. Losen, D. J., & Martinez, T. E. (2013). Out of school and off track: The overuse of suspensions in American middle and high schools. Los Angeles, CA: The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project of the University of California at Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  26. Loveless, T. (2017). The 2017 Brown Center Report on American education: How well are American students learning?: With sections on the latest international test scores, foreign exchange students, and school suspensions (Vol. 3, No. 6). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lyubansky, M., & Barter, D. (2011). A restorative approach to interpersonal racial conflict. Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, 23(1), 37–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lyubansky, M., & Shpungin, E. (2015). Challenging power dynamics in restorative justice. In T. Gavrielides (Ed.), The psychology of restorative justice: Managing the power within (pp. 183–203). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Maxwell, G., & Hayes, H. (2006). Restorative justice developments in the Pacific region: A comprehensive survey. Contemporary Justice Review, 9(2), 127–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. National Center for Children in Poverty. (2018). Child poverty. Retrieved from
  31. Oakland Unified School District. (n.d.). Restorative justice implementation guide: A whole school approach. Retrieved from
  32. Poole, S. R., Ushkow, M. C., Nader, P. R., Bradford, B. J., Asbury, J. R., Worthington, D. C., … Carruth, T. (1991). The role of the pediatrician in abolishing corporal punishment in schools. Pediatrics, 88(1), 162–167.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Richards, K. (2011). Restorative justice and “empowerment”: Producing and governing active subjects through “empowering” practices. Critical Criminology, 19(2), 91–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sims, G. K., Nelson, L. L., & Puopolo, M. R. (Eds.). (2014). Peace psychology book series: Vol. 20. Personal peacefulness: Psychological perspectives. New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  35. Van Ness, D. W. (2005). An overview of restorative justice around the world. Paper presented at Workshop 2: Enhancing Criminal Justice Reform, Including Restorative Justice United Nations 11th Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Retrieved from
  36. Wadhwa, A. (2015). Restorative justice in urban schools: Disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. New York, NY: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Zehr, H. (2015). The little book of restorative justice: Revised and updated. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mikhail Lyubansky
    • 1
  • Dominic Barter
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-ChampaignChampaignUSA
  2. 2.Restorative CirclesRio de JaneiroBrazil

Personalised recommendations