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Restorative Practices Guide Released

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A partnership of national groups released a restorative practice guide Thursday designed to help educators understand how to implement alternatives to zero-tolerance discipline in their schools.

Restorative practices are alternatives to the traditional school discipline practices of suspension and expulsion. They include peer mediation, group conflict resolution strategies, community service plans designed to "restore a harm" caused by misbehavior, and peer juries.

"Restorative Practices: Fostering Healthy Relationships & Promoting Positive Discipline in Schools" was developed by the Opportunity to Learn Campaign, Advancement Project, American Federation of Teachers, and National Education Association, with the help of educators and school personnel. The guide includes brief testimonials from teachers, examples of district-level efforts, and explanations of various approaches.

The guide echoes much of what we've already heard about discipline reform efforts, but it targets an audience of educators who may have felt left out of the discussion.

"There remains confusion in the education field over what restorative practices are and how they can help create safe learning environments through community building and redressing damage," the guide says. "This toolkit was developed to illustrate how restorative strategies can be seamlessly integrated into the classroom, curriculum, and culture of schools."

It's notable that the audience for this guide is educators, rather than policymakers. Many of the efforts to move away from classroom removal and harsh discipline have focused on passing state laws that mandate changes at the district level. Some teachers, however, may be resistant or concerned about the effectiveness of such laws and the new strategies they seek to implement.

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