An Alternative to Suspension

Rather than “A one size fits all suspension approach” as a consequence to every type of student behavior, why not view behavior as a means of communication and use proactive approaches to build relationships, model socially appropriate behaviors, and teach social responsible community behavior? After all, the “Zero Tolerance Polices” hasn’t shown improvements in school climate or safety. On the other hand, the ideals and principles of Restorative Justice take into account the importance of building relationships and creating inclusive environments where all students feel a sense of belonging. Restorative Justice advocates for proactive approaches to relationship building that create a sense of belonging, safety, and social responsibility within the school community and responsive approaches when harm has happened. The goal is to prevent misunderstandings, conflict, and thus suspensions.

Overview of Restorative Justice

Three Principles
Relationships, Inclusiveness, Accountability

o A move from the traditional thought that the situation should be turned over to authority to administer the justice vs. getting the community(students involved) involved to?
o Opposes the stark dichotomy that someone was right or wrong / innocent or guilty vs determining harm done with the members and how to repair harm
o Digresses from purely punitive consequences or punishment determined by outside partner vs agreements, accountability and consequences from the inside members about how to make things better.

o Let’s be proactive and create inclusive and trusting communities (an opportunity for students and teachers to talk about misunderstandings and conflict and commit to ways to make it better and accepting of unique differences).
o Use Affective statements “ I statements that build community and relationships.”
o Create dialogue circles to address conflicts or misunderstandings ; provide students and teachers to learn about each other and talk about issues and concerns on a consistent basis and in a consistent way.
o Use restorative justice questions- What happened? How do you feel about the situation? Do we want to sit and talk about the situation (restorative conversation)?

To see examples on the power of Restorative Justice view The Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth website and visit the National website for Restorative Justice at

I also highly recommend reading about effective school-wide discipline strategies in Discipline in the Secondary Classroom, a Positive Approach to Behavior Management by Randall S. Sprick. Imagine the possibilities- if we utilize effective classroom strategies paired with practices of Restorative Justice, we can create a community of learners that are responsible for their behavior and motivated to own their learning.  Sprink shares a proactive behavior approach- the S.T.O.I.C. model for achieving behavior success in our classrooms. Start by (S)structuring and organizing your classroom, then (T) teach behavioral expectations, (O) observe and monitor students, (I) interact positively, and lastly (C) correct misbehavior fluently. Dr. Sprick does a great jobpic2 of providing visual supports, guided note check-ins, looks/like sounds like diagrams, and exemplars to demonstrate the various behavior management techniques of this model. Each section of STOIC’s behavior management model (from arranging the classroom to teaching expectations) has steps for success and self-assessment checklist at the end of the chapter so you can prepare and self-monitor the essential strategies for creating classroom and school-wide management plans. The book also has appendices that address cultural competency and working effectively with students and families from diverse backgrounds. I enjoyed the accompanying CD that provides behavior checklist, templates and video tutorials on the various components of effective behavior management. To gather practical ways to modify behavior charts, add visual supports to schedules, and create behavior intervention plans to support our students with moderate to severe disabilities email me for specific resources.

Below, you will find two behavior/effort checklist that I have created to help students self-monitor specific behaviors and guide our reflective conversations.

Tools_3-Steps Self-Monitoring Checklist

Behavior_Effort bookmarks

This is a helpful one pager with essential practices on how to create a positive learning environment.

Building A Positive Learning Environment_One Pager

Together, we can create a safe and positive learning environments for “All” of our students.


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