Restorative Approaches and Practices

The way we respond to student misconduct symbolizes the kind of community we aspire to be.

David Karp

Little Book of Restorative Justice for Colleges and Universities

The principles of education, the well-being of students, the safety and well-being of the university community, deterrence, restitution, and where appropriate, Restorative Justice, guide decision-makers within the NAM System.

Restorative Approaches and Practices stem from Restorative Justice, which seeks to:

  • elevate the role of harmed parties and community members through active involvement in the misconduct process,
  • hold students directly accountable to the people and communities harmed by their conduct,
  • repair and restore emotional and material losses of those harmed, and
  • provide a range of opportunities for dialogue, negotiation, and problem-solving.

Restorative approaches may be employed independently to resolve an incident of misconduct or may be used in combination with a number of other outcomes (i.e., sanctions) including loss of privilege, educational requirements, and community service. Restorative approaches are most effective when the responsible parties (i.e., Respondents) and harmed parties are willing to participate in the selected process.

The Four Pillars of Restorative Justice

Groups of students sitting on steps in Goodes lobby

Inclusive Decision-Making

Decision-making is placed in the hands of the individuals who care most about the harm caused.

Three sets of legs under a volleyball net in the gym

Active Accountability

Those who caused harm must actively participate in taking responsibility and making amends.

Three students sorting through packages of food at the food bank

Repairing Harm

Collaboratively, harmed parties and those responsible agree on methods of repair and healing such that all can move forward.

Students holding each other's shoulders in a line during Orientation week

Rebuilding Trust

Trust is rebuilt on the foundation of healing and repair and restores a sense of safety to the impacted party and renewed trust in those responsible for the harm.

Restorative Approaches to Resolution

 Restorative Conferences – facilitated conversations or meetings between those responsible for misconduct and those impacted by the misconduct. Participants discuss the harm and then decide on steps to repair harm.

 Restorative Circles – similar to Restorative Conferences but involve a larger number of participants. The practice of Restorative Circles arises from Indigenous traditions and often incorporates traditional practices such as the use of a talking piece that is held by each participant when it is their turn to speak. Participants speak in rounds to discuss what happened, share feelings and perceptions about the incident and its impact, and share ideas about resolutions.

 Restorative Conversations – conversations between those responsible for misconduct and a Case Manager or other resource person who can represent the university as a harmed party. Conversations help those responsible to appreciate the impact of their actions and discuss options for moving forward.

 Apology to Harmed Parties – a written or verbal apology addressed directly to the harmed party(s).

 Payment of Restitution – an agreed financial payment to repair or replace damaged property.

 Community Service or Project – service to an organization that is relevant to the harm caused or completion of a project that benefits the harmed parties.