Stemming the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Applying Restorative Justice Principles to School Discipline Practices

Event Type: 
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm

In July 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the creation of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative. The collaboration is aimed at targeting school disciplinary policies and practices that push youth out of school and many times into the justice system, also known as the school-to-prison pipeline. The importance of continued commitment to reforming our Nation’s school discipline practices was most recently underscored in The White House’s January 2013 plan to protect children and communities and its call to identify and share best practices on school discipline policies and equitable implementation.[1]

To increase awareness and understanding of the issues around school discipline and provide practical examples of policies and practices that maintain school and classroom safety while ensuring academic engagement and success for all students, we are pleased to announce the Supportive School Discipline (SSD) Webinar Series. Webinars in the series are open to anyone and will explore numerous topics, including current school discipline philosophies, policies, and practices, and emerging alternatives; addressing truancy and absenteeism; infusing restorative justice principles; the role of school resource officers (SROs) in supportive school discipline; the promise of trauma-informed practices; the importance of youth, family, and community engagement; and the need for professional development across all stakeholders.

This fourth Webinar in the series provided the knowledge that school, district, and court staff, law enforcement and legal personnel, youth, families, and other community stakeholders need to better understand how restorative justice principles, when applied to school discipline practices, can stem the school-to-prison pipeline. With the potential of teaching conflict resolution skills, fostering understanding and empathy, and building stronger relationships in schools and communities, restorative justice has proven to be an effective alternative to punitive and exclusionary responses to problem student behavior.

The Webinar featured Dr. Mara Schiff, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, who provided an overview of restorative justice, its key principles, and its potential impact on transforming the school discipline landscape. She was joined by Ms. Rita Alfred, Co-founder of the Restorative Justice Training Institute, who shared her work translating restorative justice principles into the school setting to identify critical intervention points and prevent students’ unnecessary involvement with the justice system. The Webinar also featured Ms. Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, Restorative Justice Coordinator for the Mennonite Central Committee U.S., who discussed her work training schools in the implementation of restorative justice practices, focusing on the important role everyone can play in transforming culture and discipline responses.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: As a result of participating in this session, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the key principles of restorative justice
  • Examine how, through policy and practice changes, schools can use restorative justice principles to develop a supportive discipline system
  • Identify the potential positive impacts of restorative practices on school and community safety, student engagement and achievement, and overall student and staff well-being
  • Plan how to prepare staff to apply restorative justice principles to school discipline practices using examples from some jurisdictions

AUDIENCE: This Webinar is appropriate for school district superintendents and allied staff, community- and residential facility-based school administrators, teachers, and support staff, school climate teams, student support personnel, school resource and security officers, probation/parole officers, law enforcement, judges and court administrators, legal personnel, and youth, family members, and other community stakeholders.

RECORDING: View the archived recording of this event (FLV)

[1] The White House. 2013. Now Is The Time: The President’s plan to protect our children and our communities by r educing gun violence. Washington, DC: Author. Available online at (PDF).


U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services