Source: (2005) Presentation to the VUW Institute of Policy Studies Symposium: Towards a Restorative Society, October 10-11 2005.

The use of certain practices derived from restorative justice has recently been gaining popularity and inciting keen interest in the education community. Practices that have so far been introduced have tended to centre on conferencing and are focused on disciplinary purposes, although there is a broadening range of other practices in schools that are being talked about under the heading “restorativeâ€?. However the use of processes derived from legal practice should not be simply transposed into the education context. This paper offers some reflections on these developments, building on the experiences of a group at the University of Waikato, which completed two projects on restorative conferencing in schools for the Ministry of Education under the rubric of the Suspension Reduction Initiative, and which continues to develop understanding of the practices. Objectives of both projects were directly related to the (political) desire to reduce numbers of suspensions and exclusions, particularly of MÄ?ori children, from schools. In spite of a wide variety of continuing initiatives, the overall numbers of stand-downs and suspensions have not substantially diminished. Although there has been a slight decline for MÄ?ori, young MÄ?ori and Pasifika students are still over-represented in these figures. Most suspensions and stand-downs from schools are a result of “continual disobedienceâ€? or physical assault on other students, and occur within the 13-15 year age group. Taken together, these statistics cause me to wonder whether as a society we are addressing youthful resistance appropriately by seeing it as a disciplinary matter brought about by poor behaviour management skills on the part of teachers, poverty or just plain bad upbringing. I will argue that the question of inclusion and exclusion in society, not just in schooling, is raised by the development of restorative practices, and will offer some suggestions about the kind of theory that might help us to think more constructively about what constitutes community when the members are very different from one another. Finally, I will suggest that the introduction of restorative practices in schools offers a particular opportunity to reconsider the role of education in our society. (author's abstract).

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