In the recent past, schools in North America have faced increased cases of bullying particularly among new students. The indiscipline has led to calls for action to reduce the negative impact on the children victims. Research shows that one out of four new students in elementary schools is faced with the prospect of being bullied by the more established peers (Strohmeier & Noam, 2012). Restorative practices is one way of dealing with cases of bullying in schools as it adopts an inclusive approach while pushing for improvements in achievements. The approach involves the restoration of good relationships where there existed none before and is well versed with the reduction in violence and conflict (Smith et al., 2012). It was developed in major schools based on the structure of international practices in restorative justice among offenders.
Pearce et al., (2011) found that the approach is compatible with the recognition of schooling as a complex task. This fact makes the approach well versed with the increasing demands on schools in an ever changing environment where teachers face challenges in the course of their work. Most schools in the Americas have found the approach most suitable for preventing bullying and therefore developing an ethos that reduces the chances of such conflicts arising. Essentially, restorative practices have been applied across many countries due to its effectiveness in averting bullying, disaffection, violence and indiscipline.
The use of restorative practice in schools involves the entire school community including the students, school staff and parents in some cases (Dahmes, 2011). One major approach in restorative practice is the use of restorative conferencing in reducing bullying, offending and victimization and thus improving attendance among the students. However, Craig (2014) found no significant impact on outcome measures such as pupil attitudes and class attendance among the students. In contrast, the approach was found to reduce and prevent bullying cases especially in instances where a whole school approach had been adopted. That notwithstanding, restorative practices are not a panacea for the problems involving discipline but only works to reduce the impact of small cases of bullying and indiscipline (Dahmes, 2011).
Research has found that most teachers have a positive perception towards school programs based on restorative practices. This is because the approach provides the schools with a formula for solving and preventing cases of bullying and violence. Moreover, restorative practices are an effective alternative for punitive action that has negative effects on children’s behaviors (Strohmeier & Noam, 2012). The need for alternative disciplinary methods is therefore necessary to cope with the ineffectiveness of the punitive measures implied by most schools. Furthermore, schools have proved that they are not prepared to deal with the increasing rates of indiscipline among the students.
In the recent past, supporters of restorative practice have argued that the approach is effective in that it allows the individuals to understand the effects of their negative actions before they behave in that way. Essentially, the approach helps in restoring relationships between the people that have been harmed and those that inflict the harm through negative behavior (Craig, 2014). Activities within the sphere of restorative practices include classroom circles and peer mediation among other activities all of which are geared towards preventing negative behavior.
Research has found the impact of restorative practices to be highly efficient in reducing recidivism among bullying students. A study by Smith et al., (2012) found that there was immense improvement in student behavior and a reduction of bullying emanating from increased reparative dialogue in the school setting. Additionally, the study further found that students respect for each other was improved from activities geared towards restorative practices. The primary role of restorative practices is helping to resolve conflict in the school setting among students and teachers. It has been reported that teachers using restorative practices developed better relationships and understandings with their students. In addition, the teachers identified an improved self awareness among the students about the effect that their actions have on society.
Beane (2009) reported that restorative practices transformed negative incidents into constructive ones thus reducing the likelihood of recidivism in the negative incidents. Additionally, it was found out that restorative practices are much more effective in reducing bullyi8ng and other negative behaviors. The effect of restorative practices is that it repairs the harm inflicted upon fellow students by undisciplined students. A study by Beane (2009) found a reduction of 27% in the number of suspensions and expulsions in schools that used the program.
Pearce, N., Cross, D., Monks, H., Waters, S., & Falconer, S. (2011). Current Evidence of Best Practice in Whole-School Bullying Intervention and Its Potential to Inform Cyberbullying Interventions. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 21(01), 1-21.
Smith, P. K., Salmivalli, C., & Cowie, H. (2012). Effectiveness of school-based programs to reduce bullying: a commentary. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 8(4), 433-441.
Strohmeier, D., & Noam, G. G. (2012). Evidence-based bullying prevention programs for children and youth. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.
Dahmes, B. T. (2011). Restorative practices: An effective alternative for exclusionary practices to lessen behavior problems in schools.
Craig, W. (2014). Bullying prevention: What parents need to know.
Beane, A. L. (2009). Bullying prevention for schools: A step-by-step guide to implementing a successful anti-bullying program. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.
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