Restorative Justice Reduces Use of In-School Suspensions

Over the past two decades, policymakers, educators, and others have increasingly proposed restorative justice practices as an alternative to “zero tolerance” policies in schools. Students’ use of restorative justice programming offered in four high schools in Chicago had promising effects on rates of disciplinary infractions, in-school suspensions, and out-of-school suspensions.

What We Did

This study focused on one core aspect of the restorative justice programming—the “Peace Room”—of one program. We used data on student use of the Peace Room compiled by program staff and linked it with data on student disciplinary infractions and suspensions obtained from Chicago Public Schools (CPS). We then used propensity score matching to compare outcomes of students who had one or more infractions and used the Peace Room to similar students who attended the same four high schools prior to the implementation of the Peace Room.

What We Found

Participants in the Peace Room program fared better than the comparison group across all of the measures we collected:

  • 43% of participants received an out-of-school suspension, versus 73% of the comparison group (30 percentage points lower)
  • 25% of participants received an in-school suspension, versus 39% of the comparison group (14 percentage points lower)

Because CPS adopted policies to reduce schools’ reliance on out-of-school suspensions during the time period covered by this study, it is difficult to separate out effects due to the policy changes from those due solely to usingthe Peace Room. Therefore, the out-of-school suspension results most likely overestimate the effect of the Peace Room.

Given that the changes in CPS policies primarily focused on out-of-school suspensions, and that the overall rate of students receiving in-school-suspensions in CPS increased during the study time period, we are more confident that these results primarily reflect the effects of participating in Peace Room programming.

What It Means

Although restorative justice practices have been adopted in schools worldwide over the past two decades, there are relatively few studies that have attempted to rigorously assess the impact of these practices on student and school outcomes. This study provides promising evidence for the positive effects of some restorative justice practices on student disciplinary outcomes.

Recommended Citation
Rich, L., Mader, N., & Pacheco-Applegate, A. (2017, November). Restorative justice programming and student behavioral and disciplinary outcomes. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
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