Restorative justice serves as alternative to ‘zero tolerance’ policies at New Haven school

School district uses practice to mediate disputes

Restorative justice is an ancient practice with new potential in school disciplinary settings. At its best, restorative justice, which focuses on righting wrongs through mediation, can be an alternative to the punitive “zero tolerance” strategies that recently have dominated school disciplinary policy, educators say.

David Gillis, restorative practices coordinator at New Haven Community Schools is an employee of The Resolution Center in Mount Clemens and has contracted with New Haven Community Schools as its restorative practices coordinator for the past five years.

With Gillis as a mediator, students referred for restorative justice in New Haven Community Schools talk through incidents — for instance, a fight at school or bullying on social media—express how it made them feel, admit wrongdoing and create a plan for avoiding similar incidents in the future. Gillis crafts a written plan to which both students agree and sign.

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