The study, School-Based Restorative Justice as an Alternative to Zero-Tolerance Policies, was conducted by UC Berkeley School of Law’s Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice.

Researchers spent one year observing the program at the Cole Middle School in West Oakland, California, interviewing teachers, students, and parents. It’s one of the first studies to closely examine the impact of restorative justice on an American inner-city school.

....In the report’s student survey, 83% of respondents said the program was “helping kids at Cole”; 83% said it was “reducing fighting at Cole”; while 91% said it was “helping relationships with other students.” As one student told an interviewer, “Normally when I get into a conflict, my instinct is to fight. But restorative justice kinda taught me to calm down a bit, taught me to talk it out.”

Teachers said the program helped students mature and gain social skills; and it compelled them to confront the consequences of their actions. “At first, I felt that I did not have time to do restorative justice,” said one teacher, “but now I feel like I don’t have time not to do it.”

A local nonprofit, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), helped develop the pilot program. Fania Davis, RJOY’s executive director, said the Berkeley Law report offers the first empirical evidence of the program’s positive impact on students, teachers, and administrators.

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Read the study.