Stockton Unified schools are increasingly adopting restorative justice practices to improve school climates. By asking students to participate in and decide what kinds of behaviors they want on their campuses, schools are effectively making schools happier places.

The comprehensive high schools have reported success with restorative justice in the past three years. They set up “circles of friends” who can address issues, talk to students and make recommendations for solutions in an inclusionary way. Students who may have received referrals or suspensions for inappropriate behavior listen to what their colleagues and even the victims of their disruptive behavior have to say. The students talk it over and come to a resolution.

Last year, a number of elementary schools began implementing restorative justice. At Harrison, the number of referrals to the office and suspensions dropped by a stunning 70 percent as a result of their hugely effective a “circle of friends” approach. In the space of one year, El Dorado reduced their number of referrals to the office by nearly half.

“By making connections with our students and families and providing the opportunity for students to connect with one another, everyone is able to develop the communications skills to problem solve,” said Principal Kristen Buckenham. “As a result, we are seeing a reduction in behavior referrals and suspension rates.

Our expectation is an increased focus on learning and a higher attendance rate.”

El Dorado staff did a series of presentations on the success at their school to principals throughout the district. The school is happy to share their success. Now, when a student behaves negatively, he or she knows they are accountable, not just to teacher and parent, but to their classmates. Congratulations Harrison, El Dorado and all of our restorative justice programs for effectively improving school climates!