By Ashley Grant, Johns Hopkins University
The international call for justice reform in the wake of George Floyd's murder links to similar reform needed in in US schools to address the school to prison pipeline. Restorative Justice (RJ, also called Restorative Practices) is one rapidly-spreading school-based intervention that promotes less punitive and exclusionary practices and more positive school environments. The most recent review of the evidence for RJ in schools, from Sean Darling-Hammond and colleagues in Contemporary School Psychology, reveals that the evidence base supporting RJ is growing, but some questions remain, and there is still a need for more rigorous causal research.
The research team looked at the past 20 years of quantitative studies of RJ in the U.S. Across these studies, RJ has consistently improved discipline, discipline disparities, and school climate, and reduced misbehavior. There is some evidence to show that RJ also reduces bullying and absenteeism, but RJ's effects on academic achievement are inconclusive. Unfortunately, almost all of the studies of RJ in the U.S. remain limited by small samples and/or weak causal designs, in which it is uncertain if RJ is what is causing the observed effect.
Clearly, further research is needed on outcomes of RJ. The authors particularly call for future studies using rigorous causal research designs (e.g., RCTs), examining RJ implementation (supports, pre-conditions, and success stories), and RJ's interaction with other interventions.