Restorative Justice, School Reopenings, and Educational Equity: A Contemporary Mapping and Analysis of State Law

Thalia González - Georgetown University Law Center and Occidental College
Rebecca Epstein - Georgetown University Law Center
Claire Krelitz - Los Angeles World Affairs Council and Town Hall
Rhea Shinde - Georgetown University Law Center
Vol. 55
Page 43
The opportunity to use restorative justice practices to address structural inequalities and reimagine school structures has become increasingly important in the wake of twin social and public health pandemics. As research-based restorative practices continue to grow across the country with the aim of fostering supportive, safe, and anti-racist learning environments, calls to codify school-based restorative justice are spreading. Despite the prevalence of on-the-ground practices since the 1990s and a growing evidence base for school-based restorative practices, there is little understanding of the effect of the legalization of restorative justice on individual- or school-level outcomes. This study is the first analysis of the current school-based restorative justice schemes enshrined in state law. This data lays an important foundation for future directions in research, policy construction, and the use of restorative practices as education in the United States continues to transform following COVID-19 closures. To ensure that schools can best support the needs of students as they return to classrooms, close attention to the current restorative justice legal scheme is a key step to avoid practices and policies that could exacerbate long-standing systemic inequities in education. As schools rebuild their learning communities, future attention should focus on rigorous and systematic evaluation of restorative justice laws and how they can strengthen not only our educational system as a whole but also support educational achievement and healthy social and emotional development. Such studies will also promote new sociolegal understandings of the deployment of law as a core element of educational equity and justice movements, as well as enhance the evidence base for restorative justice in schools.
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