Restorative practices (RP) is an emerging social science that places high value on healthy relationships rooted in trust as the foundation for healthy communities. Restorative practices is a framework that emphasizes the value of relationships. It is founded on the belief that a high level of accountability and a high level of support combine to promote a safe and equitable environment. The restorative framework includes a continuum of practices (restorative language, one‐on‐one restorative conversations, classroom community-building circles, repairing harm circles, and community conferences) for building community and repairing relationships when harm has occurred.
History in MPS
The concept of restorative practices is not new to Milwaukee Public Schools. Restorative justice was first introduced in 2006 as an alternative to suspensions. Restorative justice is commonly confused with restorative practices, but they are not synonymous. Restorative justice, which is focused on repairing relationships, is actually a subset of restorative practices originally stemming from the criminal justice system. In schools, this is considered a Tier 3 support. In recent years, MPS staff have integrated restorative practices into all tiers, realizing that in order to repair a relationship, a sense of belonging and connectedness must first exist.
A variety of positons have come and gone through various grant opportunities and community partnerships, but a full-time restorative practices coordinator operates as a member of the Violence Prevention Program through the Department of Specialized Services. Currently, the district has seen significant developments in the implementation of RP as a result of the following:
- The development of a comprehensive RP implementation framework available to high schools interested in embracing a paradigm shift at the building level
- The development of a restorative practices social studies curriculum available to high school teachers trained in its implementation
- Numerous staff and community partners trained at districtwide professional development sessions
- The merger of RP and other trauma-sensitive practices to inform the implementation of the tiered system of support
- Implementation throughout various summer school programs to address attendance and behavior issues
Principles of Restorative Practices
When implementing restorative practices within a school, the following principles reflect the values and concepts for creating a restorative school climate:
- Building relationships is central to creating healthy communities.
- Relationships are strengthened by focusing on harm done rather than on rules alone.
- Focus is shifted from behavior to an individual's needs.
- All voices are valued and everyone is heard, ensuring equity of voice.
- Collaborative problem solving is promoted.
- There is an emphasis on doing things with others instead of to or for them.
Restorative practices is founded on the belief that a high level of accountability and a high level of support combine to promote a safe and equitable environment.
For more information on restorative practices in Milwaukee Public Schools, please contact:
Restorative Practices Coordinator
Violence Prevention Program