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Madison Metropolitan School District

Restorative Justice

What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative justice is a set of principles and practices rooted in indigenous values, and used holistically in schools - Restorative Justice in Education - to build authentic relationships and community, transform conflict and respond to harm, provide individual support, and support the creation of just and equitable learning environments.
Restorative justice is as much about who we are as it is about what we do. When we believe that each member of the school community is inherently worthy and deserving of respect, that each has something important to offer, and that we are all deeply interconnected, our language and practices will reflect these beliefs, creating learning communities where each person receives what they need, and all can thrive.

Our vision for restorative justice in MMSD

Radically transformed school communities where students, staff, parents, and caregivers are safe, feel they belong, and are actively engaged. All variations within the identities of race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, language, ability, nationality, immigration status, age, and class are honored; each member of the school community is deeply valued and provided with what they need to be in healthy relationship, learn, and grow. The educational experience affirms each person’s authentic self and inspires them to be bold in exploring who they are and might become as members of their communities.

To realize this vision, we will:

  • Cultivate conditions in which a holistic restorative approach can take root and grow.
    • Deepen restorative beliefs and values among adults
    • Practice restorative and distributive leadership throughout all levels of the organization
    • Partner authentically with students, families and community members
    • Dismantle a hierarchical, white-centered education system
  • Attend to both primary and secondary* justice through restorative practices and processes.
    • Prioritize the development and sustaining of authentic relationships and community throughout the organization
    • Utilize just, inclusionary practices that foster learning, growth, mutual accountability and healing
    • Use in-class restorative processes to enhance culturally and linguistically responsive pedagogy
    • Build shared understanding and comfort in using restorative language, conversation, and Circle practice
  • Advocate for the intentional shift of resources from a reactionary and punitive approach to a proactive, growth-oriented and restorative approach that builds on strengths and promotes mutual accountability.
  • Sustain an ongoing, multi-year commitment, acknowledging the personal, collective, and countercultural nature of this work.

*Primary justice, sometimes called social justice, is the condition of respect, dignity, and the protection of rights and opportunities for all, existing in relationships where no one is wronged.

Secondary justice, or judicial justice, is understood mainly as a response to harm or crime.

Restorative describes how an individual’s or group’s dignity, worth, and interconnectedness will be nurtured, protected, or reestablished in ways that will allow people to be fully contributing members of their communities.

(Vision developed collaboratively by staff members from the YWCA, Dane County TimeBank, and MMSD’s Restorative Practices Team.)