Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

Restorative Practices



Rutgers Launches New Social Justice Prep Program for Future Educators

Summary:  This article reports on a new program offered by the Rutgers Graduate School of Education to help prepare aspiring teachers to to teach diverse groups of students.  Another aspect of this work is to encourage and enable teaches to use culturally responsive materials and resources in the classroom.

Source:  Pat Donachie, Education DIVE, October 25, 2017

Categories:  Social Justice, SEL Teacher Training, Professional Development, Restorative Practices, Educational Equity



School Discipline

Suspensions Don’t Teach

Summary:  This article reports that restorative practices, rather than suspensions, provides students with an opportunity for learning behavioral alternatives while remaining in school.  The article goes on to explain the five steps of restorative practices.

Source:  Ryan Wheeler, Edutopia, October 11, 2017

Categories:  Restorative Practices, Student Behavior, Code of Conduct, Core Values



There Has Never Been a Better Time to Teach Social Justice

Summary:  This article presents ideas from two State Teachers of the Year on how to use literature from the NNSTOY’s Social Justice Reading List.  With current events as they are, it is a great time to teach social justice!

Source:  Lee-Ann Stephens and Katherine Bassett, Education Week, August 21, 2017

Categories:  Restorative Practices, Social Justice, Classroom Practice, Student Engagement



Conflict Resolution

Restorative Justice a Serious Focus for New Orleans Charter

Summary:  The Net Charter High School in New Orleans does not suspend students, instead resolving conflicts among students or between students and teachers before they have time to fester.

Source:  Tara Garcia Matthewson, Education DIVE, November 29, 2016

Categories:  Restorative Practices, Codes of Conduct, Student Behavior, SEL Basics



Why Restorative Practices Benefit All Students

Summary:  Dr. Maurice Elias interviews Dr. Brian Smith of the Committee for Children about the importance of restorative practices which offer hopeful solutions and alternatives to punitive discipline.  This is particularly important in the equitable treatment of all students regardless of their race or ethnicity.

Source:  Maurice Elias, Edutopia, November 23, 2016

Categories:  Restorative Practices, Educational Equity, Codes of Conduct, Student Behavior



Restorative Opportunities after the Election

Summary:  This blog entry on the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice (NACRJ) talks about how restorative practices. circles, and other strategies are being used to help students process the election outcome and the resulting increase in bullying and harassment in schools across the country.

Source:  Nancy Reistenberg, NACRJ, November 16, 2016

Categories:  Anti-Bullying, Restorative Practices, LGBTQ Issues, Educational Equity




Restoring Peace and Positive Relationships in a Time of Unrest and Mistrust

Politics of late have not been usual, and our kids have been exposed to rancor and divisiveness on an unprecedented scale and in unprecedented ways. Second Graders in Highland Park (New Jersey) Public Schools arrived to school on a post-Election Day Wednesday morning troubled. Their Facebook Walls (yes- Second Graders have their own accounts) splashed apocalyptic messages of doom. I walked the halls of my district high school and felt a real sullenness. My daughter, a junior at Highland Park High School, said a pall fell over everyone.

Sarah wasn’t necessarily talking about the kids’ problem with the election results, she was talking about the vibe she and peers have that the rift between the “two Americas” is coming to a head, and the future for them is looking exceptionally challenging.

Highland Park’s students may have been more readily consoled and given productive tools to cope with the day, had they been provided opportunities to have structured discussions during a daily advisory period, akin to the restorative practice “circles” found in schools that have adopted this social-emotional learning strategy. Efforts are already underway to leverage this strategy to promote peaceful talks and reconciliation at University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) where three restorative circles were hosted on campus to help students process and come to grips with the election results.

USCS took advantage of a tool that the Morningside Center for Social Responsibility has helped hundreds of school districts across the country use, to open the lines of communication and bring disparate voices together. Morningside is a well respected organization based on Manhattan’s Upper West Side that has evolved as a national leader in the field of social and emotional learning in part because of its approach to restorative circles, proven by a Columbia University study to have helped reduce aggression and violence in children and youth.

Morningside’s prescription for circle activities is simple. The circle discussions begin when a teacher prompts kids seated around the room to speak within the framework of basic rules of engagement that have already been laid out. First, position students in a circle. Each person in the circle has one to five minutes to say whatever is on his/her minds about events of the day. When one person is speaking, the others in the group pay good attention but don’t comment. The circle is over after every person has had a chance to speak. Morningside emphasizes that participation should be completely voluntary, and what people say in the circle should be kept confidential. The center’s website for teacher resources is chock full of concrete strategies and can be visited here:

The International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) expands the circle strategy to suggest a talking piece- a small object that is easily held and passed from person to person to facilitate the sharing process. Only the person who is holding the talking piece has the right to speak. IIRP provides its own defnition of the circle strategy here:

Engaged in rich, honest, and sometimes confrontational discussion during restorative circle activity time compels school communities to address the current events kids mostly absorb through social media or television. My experience with restorative circles has been powerful; students demand such respect from one another knowing the circles are in place to give everyone a safe space in which to share their most guarded and often times worrisome feelings.

Like many educational leaders around the United States, I awoke November 9 very concerned about the emotional well being of many children, including a good number of undocumented students, who were due to walk into school halls abruptly being forced to confront election result unrest and the divisiveness many expect would arise from the outcome. Highland Park incorporated its own version of restorative circles in some classrooms and there’s no doubt this strategy, when practiced effectively, can slowly restore the peace and trust schools must foster since they are the safe havens so many children look to for stability in their lives.

Dr. Scott Taylor is the Superintendent of Schools in Highland Park, NJ and is a course facilitator for SEL Academy at the College of Saint Elizabeth and Rutgers.





Bringing Restorative Practices to Your School

Summary:  This article explores restorative practices and offers six lessons learned from replacing punitive discipline with a community-oriented, restorative approach.  Restorative practices not only can replace suspensions, but can also help to build a school culture and climate based on strengthening relationships and building community.

Source: Laura McClure, Edutopia, October 10, 2016

Categories: Codes of Conduct, Restorative Practices, Student Behavior, School Culture/Climate



Male Student Talking To High School Counselor

Restorative Discipline Practices: A Socially-Emotionally Intelligent Alternative to Punishment

One of the central injustices in the US education system is the disproportionately low educational attainment of minority students. This achievement gap has many causes that are outside the reach of schools, including the impacts of poverty and racism on child development. But recent research has found a key factor that schools do control: higher levels of suspension and expulsion for minority students is the source of fully one fifth of the achievement gap.

Being suspended or expelled directly disrupts students’ learning and weakens their connection to school, and research shows all students do worse in schools with higher levels of exclusionary discipline.

Suspension rates have doubled since the 1970’s and really took off in the 1990’s as schools embraced zero tolerance policies- an approach that criminalizes but does not reduce misbehavior.

Zero tolerance-based punitive discipline is a failed approach that harms the education of millions of students, especially the most disadvantaged. But there are effective alternatives.

Proactive preventive approaches, such as the increasingly widely used Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS), set clear expectations and directly teach students how to meet them. When problems do occur, schools can use Restorative Practices to rebuild connections, keep students in school and contribute to a positive school climate. These approaches fulfill two of the key principles of Character Education: providing students with opportunities for moral action and creating a caring school community.

But for these approaches to be fully successful, students need the skills to shape their behavior to meet expectations and to actively participate in community building. These competencies are effectively built through Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).

Clear expectations and fair consequences only work when students have the ability to choose how they behave. That requires self-regulation, emotion knowledge, and social skills- the competencies that are taught through SEL. Social and emotional competence prepares young children for the intellectual and social challenges of the formal school environment. Children who receive SEL interventions not only behave better in school but also get better test scores and grades.

The Restorative Practices that build positive school climate and healthy relationships also depend on the foundation provided by SEL: students’ abilities to take other’s perspectives, be aware of their own thoughts and feelings, communicate and solve problems.

We cannot punish our way to better schools and better outcomes for students. Doing away with zero tolerance and suspension and expulsion in favor of SEL and proactive approaches that help create healthy school climates will decrease the achievement gap while benefiting all students.

Brian H. Smith Ph.D. is the Research Scientist for the Committee for Children. He can be contacted at



Rethinking Student Discipline and Zero Tolerance

Summary: The U.S. Department of Education kicked off a “Rethinking Discipline” campaign over the summer that could help bring attention to “restorative practices,” an alternative to the zero-tolerance policies that are standard practice in many schools.  This article advocates for the use of restorative practices rather than zero tolerance and reports on ongoing research conducted by the RAND Corporation which will provide empirical evidence on this issue.

Source:  By Joie Acosta, Matthew Chinman, John Engberg, & Catherine Augustine, Ed Week Commentary, October 14 2015

Categories: Codes of Conduct, Restorative Practices, Zero Tolerance