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Restorative Practices

Frequently Asked Questions

1) What are Restorative Practices?

Restorative Practices are based on principles and processes that emphasize the importance of positive relationships as central to building community and restoring relationships when harm has occurred. Restorative Practices offer a framework for helping educators build trusting relationships with and among their students, as well as with each other, through clear communication. When there's a problem, using a restorative approach helps make sure small behavior issues don't grow big. When they do, it provides formal mechanisms for resolving serious issues.

2) What does this mean for my child?

There's a big range of Restoratives Practices. They can be informal – for example, a person using "I" statements to express feelings – to very formal – for example, a trained professional facilitating resolution of a serious conflict or harm in a formal conference. As restorative processes become more formal, they involve more people; and they require more expertise, planning, time, and structure.

Here are some more examples:

  • Almost every day at Grattan, classrooms hold community-building circles, where students have an opportunity to share things like how they're feeling, what's on their minds, or what they did over the weekend. These circles help students get to know each other and build relationships.

  • When behavior issues come up, we typically start by facilitating conflict resolution using a standard set of restorative questions. These structured conversations encourage empathy, accountability, expression of feelings and ideas, and problem solving.

  • If many are affected, an impromptu responsive circle is held to process what happened and agree on how to make things right.

  • More serious issues require more planning and involve more formal, structured meetings. These are called restorative conferences and are scheduled for a later time outside of the classroom. Families of the involved students often participate in restorative conferences as well.

Restorative Questions:

To respond to challenging behavior...

  • What happened?

  • What were you thinking of at the time?

  • What have you thought about since?

  • Who has been affected by what you have done? In what way?

  • What do you think you need to do to make things right?

To help those harmed by others' actions...

  • What did you think when you realized what had happened?

  • What impact has this incident had on you and others?

  • What has been the hardest thing for you?

  • What do you think needs to happen to make things right?

3) Why did SFUSD adopt Restorative Practices?

The San Francisco Board of Education passed a resolution supporting a Restorative Practices approach to address school climate in 2009. Students and community groups had been advocating for this because they felt the district's discipline policies were not working well. The overall goal of SFUSD's Restorative Practices initiative is to improve school climate – and thereby support better outcomes for all students. Two primary and specific goals are:

  • To reduce overall numbers of suspensions and expulsions within the district.

  • To address the disproportionate suspension and expulsion of African-American, Latino, and Pacific Islander students.

One of the district's key priorities is to gradually offer intensive training to all SFUSD schools.

4) How is Grattan implementing Restorative Practices? 

The Restorative Practices approach melds with Grattan's school culture and longstanding practices – including The Grattan Way and Tribes. Since 2011, Grattan has been implementing SFUSD's Whole-School Change Model of Restorative Practices, which focuses on promoting a restorative school climate. All Grattan staff have received some training in Restorative Practices, and many have participated in intensive professional development. In addition, a Whole School Restorative Practices Coach from the district offers us periodic professional development and support.

The Grattan Way: Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Kind.

5) How can I learn more?

To find out more about what's happening in SFUSD, visit the Restorative Practices page at HealthierSF.

Check out two SFUSD-produced videos about Restorative Practices in our schools:

Read this article in the Fall 2012 issue of SFUSD's School Times publication, written by Grattan parent and education consultant Amy Merickel, who is a member of SFUSD's Parent Advisory Council.

A wealth of information and resources is also available from the International Institute of Restorative Practices.

Finally, the development of Restorative Practices in schools evolved from Restorative Justice, an approach to resolving criminal justice cases. Visit Wikipedia for some background on Restorative Justice. A distinction is that in addition to supporting conflict resolution, Restorative Practices encourage community building.