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Restorative Practice

The Why

In order to make equity in schools a reality, research says schools must shift disciplinary policies and procedures to reduce exclusionary practices. Evidence based strategies that support equitable school discipline include Positive Behavior Interventions & Support (PBIS), social emotional learning (SEL), cultural responsiveness, and Restorative Practices (Hanover Research, 2017).

When used as complementary approaches, these strategies establish clear communication about behavior expectations (PBIS), build safe and healthy relationships (SEL), acknowledge the impact and value of culture on teachers and students (cultural competence), and respond to student misbehavior in a manner that heals and teaches (Restorative Practices).

NTPS started shifting approaches to reduce exclusionary disciplinary practices in 2008 leading to PBIS and MTSS adoption in 2009. In 2019, the District began implementing social emotional curriculum and made its commitment to equity with a school board resolution and comprehensive equity plan to lean into the process of becoming more culturally competent. In 2020-21, NTPS launches Restorative Practices.


Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports
Social Emotional Learning SEL
Cultural Responsiveness
Restorative Discipline

The How

Restorative Practices do not eliminate traditional or exclusionary discipline. Rather, restorative approaches are part of a discipline continuum. They are used at the discretion of teachers, administrators, and students who are willing to accept responsibility for their actions when victims and others involved voluntarily participate. A fundamental premise of restorative practice is that people are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them. Restorative Practices involve a set of adult practice objectives:

Build positive relationships
Reduce and prevent harmful behavior and adult responses to behavior
Engage in collaborative problem-solving to resolve conflicts
Enhance personal responsibility for one’s behavior
Empower change and growth in participants
Repair harm to address the needs of the school community
“Adult imposed consequences cause a child to look outside of him/herself rather than inside for guidance on how to behave.  We want kids looking inside, not outside, for that guidance.” 

Dr. Ross Greene

The What

Restorative Practices can be viewed through a pyramid of preventive and responsive strategies. At the foundation is affective language. This is language that genuinely expresses feelings or emotions related to specific behaviors or actions of others. It includes both statements and questions that help individuals to develop awareness of how one’s actions affect others, empathy for others, and a sense of personal responsibility among community members.

In the middle of the pyramid are circle processes. Used traditionally by African and Native American communities, circles elicit student input, and promote strong relationships and a sense of community when used daily as an educational routine. Circles can also be used as spaces of healing, places to resolve conflict, and a location where multiple perspectives can be shared to identify contextual problems that gave way to undesired behaviors.

At the top are conferences. When serious harms have been committed and relationships have been broken and are in need of repair, conferences provide offender(s) an opportunity to meet face-to-face and discuss what happened and why, how each person feels, how to make things right again, and how to prevent future incidents. Keys to success are voluntary participation, responsible students who acknowledge actions before meeting with those harmed, parties involved discuss how to make things right, commit to a plan, and sign an agreement to avoid future harms.



  • Reaffirm relationships through language
  • Development of social & emotional skills
  • Promote & strengthen the sense of belonging & ownership
  • Do things with not for or to others


  • Affective statements
  • Fair process eliciting student input
  • Classroom contracts reviewed often
  • Daily lessons that build community (SEL)
  • Daily student check-ins 


  • Break the cycle of escalation
  • Manage shame
  • Promote expression of feelings
  • Separate behavior from person


  • Affective questions
  • Small impromptu conferences for low-level conflict
  • Reflective listening & clarifying statements
  • Collaborative problem solving (empathy, adult concerns, invitation to collaborate)


  • Prevent harm
  • Resolve differences
  • Build social-emotional capacity


  • Proactive circles (precede incidents, focus on preselected topics, i.e. classroom issues)


  • Manage difficulties
  • Repair/rebuild relationships
  • Focus on accountability
  • Reintegrate into the community


  • Accountability circles (prepare for restorative conference & support action plan completion)
  • Peer mediation
  • Hallway conferences
  • Family restorative meetings


  • Serious harm has been committed
  • Focus on accountability
  • Voluntary participation
  • Acknowledge actions & accept responsibility


  • Face-to-face meetings
  • Create action plans
  • Peer Juries

The Way

NTPS Office of Student Achievement assembled a team of Assistant Principals during the spring of 2020 to begin looking at research, explore readiness, and identify next steps.  The Office of Student Achievement also consulted with district leaders in Equity, Human Resources, and Student Support Services.

An implementation plan was developed based on the research on effective practice.  The plan assumes a school-wide implementation of Restorative Practices rather than implementation of a model that is followed only by administrators.  This is because Restorative Practice has the strongest impact when implemented as a whole-school, preventative approach to discipline (McCluskey et al., 2011).   During the 2020-21 school year, the following schools stepped forward to serve as school-wide early implementers:  Lydia Hawk Elementary, Olympic View Elementary, Nisqually Middle School, and River Ridge High School.  These schools will receive focused professional development with the following goals:

Restorative Practices:  Goals

Goal 1: Foundational structures to support RP implementation are in place
Goal 2: There is a common understanding of why restorative practices are being implemented
Goal 3: Lead teams in each school are trained in restorative practices
Goal 4: Affective language and restorative culture take root in each school
Goal 5: Families and students are introduced to the concept and process of Restorative Practice

The Bottom Lines

Restorative Practice makes sense for NTPS. It aligns with NTPS’s commitment to becoming a community of compassion that is dedicated to the success of all students. It squares with the District’s race and equity policy and with the Board of Directors’ Equity in Education resolution. Restorative Practice also lines up with NTPS’s educational mission, values, and vision as articulated in the District’s Strategic Plan. The restorative practices implementation plan advances the following strategic plan goals and indicators:

Goal 1: Success in the Early Years

  • Increased % of children meeting social, emotional, and physical milestones through Grade 3

Goal 2: Responsible, Resilient, Empowered Learners

  • Increased % of children meeting social, emotional, and behavioral expectations.
  • Increased opportunities for student voice

Goal 3: Critical Thinkers and Solution Seekers

  • Increased % of students applying learning to collaboratively engage in solving challenges

Goal 4: Continuous Growth—All Students, All Subjects

  • Increased growth rate of underperforming groups eliminating achievement and opportunity gaps

Goal 5: Preparedness for Post-Secondary Success

  • Increased % of students passing classes in grades 6-9, culminating in an increased % on track to graduate

Additional Information

Additionally, Restorative Practice lines up with NTPS’s instructional and Association of Washington School Principals leadership frameworks:

Danielson Domain 2: Classroom Environment | AWSP Leadership Framework

Criterion 1: Creating a Culture

1.1 Develops and sustains a focus on a shared mission and clear vision for improvement of teaching and learning
1.2 Engages in essential conversations for ongoing improvement
1.3 Facilitates collaborative processes leading toward continuous improvement
1.4 Creates opportunities for shared leadership

Criterion 2: Ensuring School Safety

2.1 Provides for physical safety
2.2 Provides for social, emotional and intellectual

Restorative Practice involves deep adaptive work in system and human infrastructures.  With vision and values at the heart, the most challenging work for Restorative Practice implementation lies “below the line” (Thorsborne and Blood 2014) where adults are called to attend closely to who we are as leaders and educators, how we stand in relationship with each other and our students, what we believe about behavior, how we teach and heal when misbehavior occurs, and how we use language, i.e. to de-escalate behavior or escalate, to build or weaken relationships.