Restorative practices in schools reduce arrests, suspensions
A Chicago Public Schools program that introduced restorative justice practices in high schools resulted in fewer suspensions and fewer arrests of students inside and outside of school, with Black students experiencing the most benefit, according to new research from UIC and the University of Chicago.
Restorative practices seek to create a sense of justice for all parties involved, with the goal of repairing the harm that has been done. This can involve, for example, conversations between the offender and victim or between an offender and the victim’s family or friends.
The study found that out-of-school suspensions decreased by 18% at the 73 CPS high schools that implemented restorative practices compared with CPS schools that did not, meaning students received more in-school instruction time because of the program. Overall, arrests fell by 19% for students at schools with restorative programs. That included a 35% decrease in arrests on school grounds during school hours and a 15% decrease outside of school. Additionally, students in schools with restorative practices said they thought the school climate had improved.
Black students saw the biggest benefits, the study found. They saw the largest decline in out-of-school suspension days and arrests.
“While we don’t view restorative practices as a panacea, our findings suggest that restorative practices provide a valuable set of tools for schools seeking to move away from the punitive approaches that have been employed so frequently in the past to address behavioral challenges,” said Benjamin Feigenberg, associate professor of economics at UIC. He conducted the study along with Anjali Adukia and Fatemeh Momeni at the University of Chicago.
“Our results provide evidence that an alternative approach exists that helps solve the perceived tradeoff between educators feeling the need to suspend students or else face learning disruptions within schools,” the researchers write. “Indeed, our findings suggest that no such tradeoff exists.”