Restorative Justice is Alternative to Zero-Tolerance
Derek Slaughter, a high school student from Baltimore, is a powerful advocate for restorative justice and the National Student of Bill of Rights. In a guest post for Education Week's "Democracy and Education" blog, he writes:
"Throughout my educational career, I have heard my peers say that things aren’t fair or that they have been unjustly punished in schools. Administration being overzealous to implement extreme disciplinary action is a common theme in schools throughout the country, which I have observed in my travels. For this reason the National Student Bill of Rights movement believes in installing restorative justice systems in communities and schools.
The principles of restorative justice require people to look at the root cause of the offender’s actions before the implementation of an arbitrary “punishment.” Through the restorative justice process, there is no need to enact zero tolerance: participants can see that there is a much better alternative. It is important to emphasize that students must be actively involved and engaged in restorative justice systems in order to keep these systems from returning to a regular authoritarian discipline structure.
The heart of any restorative justice system, whether in or out of school, is repairing harm and reconciling the offender and victim. Restorative justice does not equate to a lack of consequences for one’s actions. It takes a different approach to reaching a solution to root problem that causes the offense to occur, rather than solely focusing on the offense."