Source: (2004) Paper presented at "New Frontiers in Restorative Justice: Advancing Theory and Practice", Centre for Justice and Peace Development, Massey University at Albany, New Zealand, 2-5 December.

In 1999 the New Zealand Ministry of Education contracted a team from the University of Waikato to develop a process for conferencing in schools. The brief was to utilise restorative justice principles in an attempt to reduce the exponential increase of suspensions, particularly of Maori boys ­ in short, it was seen as a disciplinary issue. In the participating schools suspensions went down, but in spite of burgeoning interest in the use of restorative practices in schools, over all in New Zealand suspensions and expulsions have continued to increase. Some response suggest that the problem lies within the homes of children where they do not learn to behave properly, or to value education. Such presumptions are challenged by the fact that many low decile schools do not suspend in great numbers, and many high decile schools do, suggesting the latter use exclusion as a disciplinary measure, while the former use it as a tool in pastoral care. Schools are increasingly complex communities, and in trying to cope with the impact of cultural and social diversity (together with requirements that teaching is “inclusiveâ€?), the teaching profession has tended to view the problem of “classroom managementâ€? as a matter of discipline. Political responses to students’ resistance to schooling practices have included placing counsellors in secondary schools, introducing the Resource Teachers Learning and Behaviour, and most recently, social workers in schools, indicating that this is seen as either a personal or a social problem, rather than an educational one. In this paper I will argue that a primary objective of schooling should be to achieve legitimate goals within relationships of mediation in complex communities, and that schools have a central responsibility in this objective. Abstract courtesy of the Centre for Justice and Peace Development, Massey University,