Restorative Practices and Positive Discipline

At Kegonsa Elementary School, our proactive strategies and response to misbehavior are rooted within restorative practices and Responsive Classroomphilosophies.

Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices

Restorative Justice is an alternative to using punishment to manage misbehavior. Punishment-based approaches are the tradition most of us are familiar with, because they are the basis of our criminal justice system, guided by the idea that punishment, if fair and proportionate, is the best response to crime. In practice this means identifying, prosecuting, and punishing the offender. Often this is done at great cost to society, with little healing for victims and communities and outright harmful effect on offenders and their families.

School discipline has for the most part taken its cue from the criminal justice system. The focus is on punishing wrongdoers with the aim of enforcing behaviors that are safe and non-disruptive. When punishment does not work, misbehaving students may be excluded through suspension or expulsion, with possibly serious long-term harmful consequences to them and society. There is little or no opportunity for social and emotional learning.

Restorative practices in schools are based on restorative justice principles instead of punishment. They aim first to build classroom communities that are supported by clear agreements, authentic communication, and specific tools to bring issues and conflicts forward in a helpful way. They provide specific pathways to repair harms by bringing together those who are affected by misbehavior in a dialogue to address concerns, achieve understanding, and come to agreement about setting things right. In addition to serving the cause of fairness and justice, restorative approaches make safer schools and contribute to social and emotional learning.

The following chart indicates the following shifts in perspectives:

From... To...
Efforts to suppress misbehavior based on the view that misbehavior is evidence of failing students or classrooms. Recognizing and using the inherent value of misbehavior as an opportunity for social and emotional learning.
Authority-driven disciplinary actions that focus only on the identified misbehaving students. Restorative circles that bring together everyone who is most immediately affected by the incident.
Punishment and exclusion is used to control misbehavior and motivate positive behavior changes. Dialogue leading to understanding and action to set things right and repair and restore relationships.


Responsive Classroom and Logical Consequences

Kegonsa Elementary also upholds the philosophies within Responsive Classroom, including the perspectives on adult responses to behavior. When a student engages in behavior that varies from the school-wide expectations, staff are present to facilitate the implementation of logical consequences with the student(s).

Characteristics of Logical Consequences:

  • Respectful
    • Staff are respectful in their tone and language when conferencing with a student. They direct the conversation that focuses on the behavior, not aspects of the child and their character.
  • Relevant
    • The consequence should be directly related to the child’s actions.
  • Realistic
    • The consequences must be able to be implemented in a reasonable amount of time and resources for both the child and staff.

Within the Responsive Classroom model, there are three overarching types of logical consequences as follows:

  1. Reparations- You break it, you fix it
    • This type of logical consequence is used in situations when something has been broken or a mess has been made—whether accidentally or intentionally. The consequence is that those responsible for the problem take responsibility for fixing it. Teachers use this type of logical consequence when they see an opportunity for a child to solve a problem he or she has caused. 
      Example: Adam becomes upset and rips another student’s work. He helps tape it back together and apologizes to mend the relationship with the other student.
  2. Loss of Privilege
    • This type of logical consequence is used when children’s behavior does not meet pre-established expectations. The consequence is that the child loses the privilege of participating in an activity or using materials for a brief time, usually a class period or a day. What’s taken away must be directly related to the misbehavior, and the teacher must make sure that the child truly understands and can live up to expectations. Teachers use this type of logical consequence when children defy, test, or simply forget the rules.
      Example: Garth’s class job for the week is line leader, but as he leads the class to lunch, he leans into a classroom to wave hello to a friend. The teacher tells Garth that he has lost the privilege of being line leader for the day and temporarily gives that responsibility to another child. Later, she checks in with Garth to make sure he remembers and understands the expectations for walking in line.
  3. Positive Time Out- Recharge Zone
    • This type of logical consequence is used when a teacher believes that a child needs a way to calm down and recover self-control. The consequence is that the child moves to a pre-established place in the classroom, takes time to regroup, and then rejoins the class once he or she has calmed down. Teachers use take a break to keep minor misbehaviors—intentional and accidental—from escalating and becoming disruptive, and to give children opportunities to practice strategies they’ve learned for regaining self-control. Because many children have experienced punitive uses of time-out, it’s important for teachers to explain that “in this class, time-out simply gives us the time and space we all sometimes need to get ourselves in check when we begin to lose our cool.”
      Example: Mark disrupts a math lesson by calling out answers without raising his hand. The teacher sends him to the take a break place. In the minute or two he spends there, Mark calms down using self-calming techniques the class has learned, and then returns to his regular seat.

      Sometimes students attempt take a break in their classroom and are unsuccessful in resetting their behavior and mindset. In these instances the use of a Buddy Room can be very effective in assisting the child to regain self-control. A Buddy Room is a nearby classroom, where the student uses that classroom’s take a break area to reset.


‘Teaching Restorative Practices with Classroom Circles’, by the Amos Clifford, Center for Restorative Process Developed for San Francisco Unified School District

Responsive Classroom website