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Restorative Practices Reduce Discipline Bias

Entrenched and pervasive racial discipline gaps in public education have come under increasing scrutiny, partially in response to increased national attention highlighting the unfair and punitive treatment of students of color (United States Department of Education, 2014). In particular, the overrepresentation of students of color in suspensions and expulsions has been the focus of much recent scholarship on racial equity in education (Morris & Perry, 2016). Scholars have identified differential processing of consequences as one of the many contributors to racial disparities in school discipline (Gregory, Skiba, & Mediratta, 2017; Gregory, Skiba, & Noguera, 2010). Differential processing refers to racial disparities in educators’ decisions about consequences in response to an individual discipline incident. In general, administrators tend to apply more punitive and exclusionary sanctions to Black and Latino students than their Asian and White peers, even when accounting for a range of confounding variables (e.g., Anyon et al., 2014; Skiba et al., 2014). As cited in Anne Gregory, Francis L. Huang, Yolanda Anyon, Eldridge Greer, and Barbara Downing (2018) An Examination of Restorative Interventions and Racial Equity in Out-of-School Suspensions. School Psychology Review: June 2018, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 167-182.


Multiple studies have confirmed that Black, Latino, and Native American students are more likely than White students to be issued an exclusionary sanction by an administrator after a discipline incident, even for similar infractions (Anyon et al., 2014; Skiba et al., 2014). Further, differential processing occurs for both Black males and females (Annamma et al., 2016; Blake et al., 2016) and when Black and White students share similarities on a range of characteristics. Specifically, the likelihood of a Black student receiving OSS is significantly higher than that of a White student when the students are similar in terms of low-income status (Skiba et al., 2014) and academic underperformance (Blake et al., 2016; Fabelo et al., 2011). As cited in Anne Gregory, Francis L. Huang, Yolanda Anyon, Eldridge Greer, and Barbara Downing (2018) An Examination of Restorative Interventions and Racial Equity in Out-of-School Suspensions. School Psychology Review: June 2018, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 167-182.


Restorative approaches to resolving conflict have historical roots in diverse religions (e.g., Judaism) and cultures (e.g., American Indian, Maori; Drewery, 2013). Despite their long history and more recent popularity among educators and juvenile justice workers, restorative approaches to conflict are understudied. restorative conferences and circles for serious incidents follow a formal procedure. People impacted by the incident are invited to voluntarily participate. If they agree, they attend a preconference to get oriented to the process (Costello et al., 2009; McCluskey et al., 2008). In the conference itself, participants sit in a circle facing one another and a facilitator uses a structured set of questions to guide the exchange among all the participants. All of those involved have a chance to reflect on the incident and respond to questions such as, “What happened?”; “Who has been harmed/ affected by what you have done?”; “What part are you responsible for?”; and “How will the harm be repaired?” (Costello et al., 2009). The participants jointly develop a plan to repair the harm. As cited in Anne Gregory, Francis L. Huang, Yolanda Anyon, Eldridge Greer, and Barbara Downing (2018) An Examination of Restorative Interventions and Racial Equity in Out-of-School Suspensions. School Psychology Review: June 2018, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 167-182.


The experts at IINII are certified Restorative Practices facilitators through the International Institute of Restorative Practices. IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed. IINII has extensive experience building and using an Indigenous research paradigm.


Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at www.iinii.org, or contact us at iinii@iinii.org or 1800-507-2502.



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