Source: (2012) Paper presented at the 1st International Symposium on Restorative Justice and Human Rights. 2-7 June 2012, Skopelos Island, Greece.

There is considerable evidence that punitive zero tolerance disciplinary policies in schools result in the overuse of suspension, expulsion and disciplinary referrals for school-based youth. The impacts of such policies are disproportionately felt among minority students, resulting in what is being called the “schoolto-prison pipeline” in the U.S. and elsewhere. Moreover, recent research suggests that the offenses for which minority youth are typically penalized are considerably more “subjective” than the violations recorded for their white peers. This disproportionate use of harsh disciplinary sanctions for minority youth violates the educational, social and civil rights of young people, ostensibly to promote “safer” schools and correspondingly higher academic achievement. As an alternative disciplinary response, restorative justice approaches in schools are designed to encourage youth to accept accountability for their actions, make amends to those harmed and, ultimately, to successfully stay in school. Such approaches are gaining considerable attention as a “best practice” for reducing suspension, expulsion, disciplinary referrals and subsequent school-related arrests (Morrison et al, 2005; Stinchcomb et al, 2006). This paper addresses how harsh, punitive and non-restorative discipline marginalizes and criminalizes the behavior of minority youth and how the use of restorative practices can promote far fairer, more just and inclusive outcomes. The paper will first review the use and impacts of zero tolerance and other punitive disciplinary sanctions on minority youth. It will then examine the use of restorative justice as an inclusive alternative strategy with the promise of preserving individual and collective student rights. (author's abstract)