Creating Restorative Schools

Setting Schools Up to Succeed

By Martha A. Brown, PhD

Foreword by Katherine Evans, PhD

Living Justice PressSoftcover, 360 pages, indexed, ISBN 978-1-937141-21-9, publication 2018



Creating Restorative Schools is based on Martha Brown’s study of two middle schools in the Oakland Unified School District that are making the shift to a restorative model. The book maps the route from school cultures of zero tolerance to those cultivating healthy and vibrant relational ecologies at all levels. Addressing the potential pitfalls of implementing such a deep change in school culture, Martha shows us how nurturing relationships builds the capacity to make the shift and negotiate the challenges. Restorative schools emerge as places where people want to be—where teachers want to teach and students want to learn.
Here is a brief outline of the book’s organization:
SECTION 1: Making the Shift from Punitive to Restorative SchoolsChapter 1: From Zero Tolerance to Restorative Schools

  • Schools in Crisis and Change
  • Restorative Justice in Education: A Paradigm Shift
  • Zero Tolerance Paradigm: On-the-Spot Benefit; Costs Forever After
  • RJE Paradigm: Up-Front Costs, Benefits Forever After
  • What does the Shift Entail?

Chapter 2: Zero Tolerance: A Disastrous Policy

  • Understanding What We Want to Change
  • The Origin of Zero Tolerance: A Response to Gun Violence
  • From Criminalizing Youth Behavior to Creating Prison-Like Schools
  • No Child Left Behind and Push Out
  • School-Community Bonds Broken
  • Zero Tolerance Fails to Serve the Purpose of Education
  • Racial Bias in Teacher Attitudes and Racialized Discipline Policies
  • School Push-Out: A Civil Rights Issue for Our Time
  • A Paradigm Change Under Way

Chapter 3: Understanding Restorative Justice in Education (RJE)

  • What Is Restorative Justice?
  • Restorative Values
  • How Is Restorative Justice in Education Different?
  • Restorative Processes in Schools
  • “Sharp End” versus School-Wide Restorative Practices
  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports
  • Social and Emotional Learning
  • Connections between SEL, PBIS, and RJE
  • Connecting SEL to Teaching through Restorative Practices
  • RJE and Sharing Power
  • RJE as a Way of School Life

SECTION II: Davis and Grant: Two Very Different Middle Schools

Chapter 4: Davis Middle School: More Resources for RJE Make the Shift Easier

Chapter 5: Grant Middle School: Fewer Resources Pose Extra

SECTION III: Relational Ecologies and How They Affect Change

Chapter 6: What Do the Schools’ Relational Ecologies Look Like?

  • Theme 1: Trust
  • Theme 2: Being Heard
  • Theme 3: Relational-Based, Student-Centered Culture
  • Theme 4: Commitment to Social Justice
  • Becoming culturally competent.
  • Confronting the impact of racial biases on African American males.

Chapter 7: Changes in the Schools’ Structures

Chapter 8: Changes in the People

Chapter 9: Changes in the Classroom

SECTION IV: Setting Schools Up to Succeed

Chapter 10: Putting It All Together: Relational Ecology and Change

  • A School’s Relational Ecology Sets Its Capacity to Change
  • Trust Feeds School-Wide Change
  • Making Time for Relationships
  • Visionary and Democratic Leadership Nurtures Change
  • Creating a Positive Ethos and Atmosphere
  • Training and Support: Keeping RJE Change on Track and Going
  • Repairing Relationships Fosters Change
  • African American Males and RJE: Pushing a School’s Paradigm Shift Deeper
  • Interventions that did not work with some Black youth.
  • RJE’s response: go deeper.
  • Historical and ongoing racial realities for Black students.

Chapter 11: Mapping the Shift to a Restorative School

  • Building a Restorative Community Base
  • For Schools and Districts Making the Shift
  • Actions for Policy Makers
  • Putting RJE into Teacher and Leader Education Programs

Free Download: A Reflection Guide by author Martha A. Brown

“Creating Restorative Schools would be useful for community psychologists working in school settings, those who conduct research or evaluation in education, or those interested in justice, equity, systems, policy change, and issues related to youth. The book provides a service by framing of issues related to equity and justice as applied in education settings. Give the many PBIS programs and SEL initiatives being implemented in schools, to say nothing of the number of school shootings happening in the United States, Creating Restorative Schools is a timely read.”
— The Community Psychologist Journal, Fall 2018

“Restorative school refers to a ‘whole-school approach that prioritizes relationships, builds community, creates just and equitable learning environments’ and strives to ‘support struggling students, teach peaceful conflict resolution, and repair relationships after a harm has occurred.’ . . . Brown provides an in-depth study of two schools going through restorative implementation. . . . This text is an interesting and important take on how to invest in relationships with students, boldly claiming that punishment is not an option in a restorative school, and then demonstrating the deeply interpersonal successes of two example schools.”

—Review in VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) magazine, June, 2018

“Beginning with her courageous assertion, ‘There simply is no place for punishment in schools,’ Martha Brown provides a map for replacing punishment with restorative processes that are healing, produce lasting results, and are cost effective. She recognizes that RJ is not an easy fix, but she makes a compelling case for teaching our youth the values used in circle processes to resolve conflicts, because they strengthen the school community and will also serve them throughout life. This important contribution to Restorative Justice literature takes a conclusive stand for leaving zero tolerance in the dust bin of educational theory and, instead, investing our time, energy, and tax dollars in school-wide restorative practices.”

Sylvia Clute, President, Alliance for Unitive Justice

“Deep relational ecologies are the heart of RJE. Within this deeply reflective ecology, Martha Brown maps out how we are all practitioners, researchers, trainers and theorists. To engage in this transformational journey at the core of educational praxis, we must learn and grow together. RJE is a journey, not a destination. Martha has gathered the wisdom of our times through engaging the voice of students, teachers, administrators, academics and practitioners. With this visionary map in hand, we are ready to take the next steps.”

Brenda Morrison, Author and Director of the Centre for Restorative Justice at Simon Fraser University and Assistant Professor of Criminology, Simon Fraser University

“I have very much enjoyed reading Martha’s book. It has re-invigorated my passion for the work I do in and with schools. It has also reassured me that the challenges I see schools facing in the UK are very similar to those in the US. Bringing about culture change along relational and restorative lines is not easy, and Martha has painstakingly showed why this is. However, even piecemeal implementation can make a huge difference to school culture and relationships. Martha has shown this to be the case, whilst never relinquishing her belief in the potential of a systemically implemented relational and restorative approach across a whole school community.”

Belinda Hopkins, Author and Director, Transforming Conflict, National Centre for Restorative Approaches in Youth Settings, Berkshire, UK

“At the end of the reading the book, I can only breathe a sigh of gratefulness for such a comprehensive, careful, caring, daring, bold, and compassionate description of the reality of implementing and sustaining RJE. I think you have caught the ethos in the words and descriptions. You have been very respectful, caring, and accepting of what it is to be human.”

Dorothy Vaandering, Author and Professor of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, NL, Canada

“This book is perhaps one of the best books on restorative justice in schools written. It’s a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in a truly honest and practical approach to becoming a fully restorative school.”

Randy Compton, President, Co-Founder Restorative Solutions, Inc., Boulder, CO

“In Creating Restorative Schools, Martha Brown describes directly the challenges and benefits of moving the entire school staff towards a restorative culture. The process is not a straight line, and the side roads are many. The story of the two schools’ paths provides directions and cautions, essential insight for any educator working to implement Restorative Justice in Education principles and practices in their school.”

Nancy Riestenberg, Restorative Practices Specialist, Minnesota Department of Education

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