What are Restorative Practices?

Values cards for a center piece
Values cards for a center piece.

Restorative practices are a set of approaches that help us create a caring community and keep that community whole. Through restorative practices, those in the community who cause harm are able to understand the impact of their actions, heal the harm, and return to the community so that it is restored.

Restorative practices are incorporated into every Morningside Center program, including:

  • The 4Rs (Reading, Writing, Respect & Resolution) for grades PreK-5
  • C Squad: Friends for the Journey for grades 6-8
  • Building Belonging for grades 9-12
  • Restore360, our whole-school SEL/restorative practices/racial equity program, PreK-12

In schools, restorative practices offer a positive alternative to punitive forms of discipline that can lead to suspension and the disproportionate punishment of students of color. But restorative practices do more than reduce suspensions. They enable both young people and adults to:

  • strengthen their sense of connection with each other, creating a more kind and productive classroom and school
  • bolster their social and emotional skills and their cultural and racial awareness 
  • develop skills to resolve conflicts and problems in a restorative way rather than a punitive way

Morningside Center is the New York City Department of Education’s lead partner in introducing restorative practices into NYC public schools.  We have provided our five-day introductory training and coaching for hundreds of schools, as well as advanced training in restorative interventions and promoting racial equity. Schools that have received training and coaching in restorative practices have seen their school climate improve and suspensions drop precipitously.  

Our approach to restorative practices includes these components:

  • Training and coaching for school staff in social and emotional learning (SEL) and restorative practices to prepare them to facilitate, or “keep,” daily or weekly restorative circles for all students using an SEL curriculum (The 4Rs, C Squad, or Building Belonging). 
  • Restorative circles for all students that both build community and strengthen social and emotional skills. Restorative circles use a highly structured process – including sitting in a circle, passing a “talking piece” to speak, and placing a “center piece” (an object or words that are meaningful to the group) at the center of the circle.  Over time, the circle becomes a community where everyone feels heard and valued. In this setting, using an age-appropriate curriculum, young people and adults develop and practice social and emotional skills such as understanding and managing feelings, relating well to others, appreciating differences, and dealing well with conflict. These skills are the very ones needed to prevent conflicts from happening and respond to them in a restorative way when they do.
  • Training and coaching for staff in using restorative interventions to address situations in which harm has been done, creating an alternative to punitive discipline. Through this process, the person who caused the harm meets with the person who was harmed, together with other members of the community. Under the guidance of a skilled facilitator, they explore the impact of the harmful action and decide together how to heal the harm and restore the community.
  • Support for staff in having courageous conversations about race so that they can become more aware of implicit and explicit barriers to creating an equitable learning environment for all young people.
  • Support for principals and their planning teams in rethinking school discipline policies to ensure that they are aligned with SEL and restorative approaches, helped by a facilitator and detailed guide.
  • Engaging parents and all members of the school community in using SEL and restorative practices to support young peoples’ positive development.