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Towards effective implementation and sustainability of restorative justice in Ontario public schools: A critical case study.

Vaandering, Dorothy
June 4, 2015

Source: (2009) Dissertation. Doctor of Philosophy. The University of Western Ontario.

This thesis investigates the implementation of restorative justice (rj) in public
schools in southern Ontario. In particular by describing and analyzing how provincial
policies, school boards, and educators practically interpret restorative justice principles
this work contributes to a deeper theoretical understanding of restorative justice in
education so that its transformative potential can be experienced and sustained. This
study is important given that theoretical and evidence-based research to support the
growing global practices associated with rj is limited (Braithwaite, 2006; Morrison, 2006)
and the voices and experiences of educators engaged with rj on a daily basis have rarely
been presented or examined for insight into its effective implementation and
Critical theory and the anti-oppressive, dialogic insights provided by Freire,
hooks, and Lederach provide a theoretical framework for this qualitative, narrative, case
study. It focuses on two different schools in two different Ontario school boards each of
which adopted different approaches to implementing rj. Though each school and school
board is committed to engaging with rj to develop relationship-based cultures, a number
of obstacles preventing its successful implementation and sustainability were uncovered
especially in regard to policy, leadership and pedagogy.
In essence the findings of these case studies indicate that by failing to address the
structural and institutional influences acting on school participants, rj is reduced to a
decontextualizing, skill-building exercise for managing conflict at the level of the
behaviour of students in schools. Implications arising from the findings include the need
for a broader conceptualization of restorative justice that more clearly defines its underlying philosophy and principles, on-going, critical examination of the current
training practices and rj theories for their reinforcement of power relations that underlie
the punitive, rule-based cultures they are attempting to replace, and the need for
embedding rj within pedagogy and curriculum.


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