Impact of Restorative Justice on racially disparate exclusions

By Jonathan Bartley
September 4, 2012

As highlighted in the report from the Children’s Commissioner earlier this year on school exclusions, Government statistics about exclusions show that four key factors in a child's life make it more likely a child will be excluded: their gender, having special educational needs (SEN), their ethnicity, and when they live in poverty.

When all four factors are combined, these figures show that a Black boy from an African Caribbean background, who has SEN and is also from a low income household, is 168 times more likely to be permanently excluded from the same school than a White female classmate, who does not have SEN and comes from a more affluent household.

It was interesting to see a study from the US therefore, suggesting that Restorative Justice might have a tangible impact on reducing exclusions ("suspensions" as they are called in the paper) that result from racially disparate school discipline.

The study investigated whether the implementation of Restorative Justice significantly reduced racial disproportionality in school discipline vis-à-vis African American students. In particular, it analysed whether the disparity in black suspension percentage as compared to white suspension percentage—measured by the difference between black suspension percentage and white suspension percentage)—was reduced by a greater amount in schools that implemented Restorative Justice than in those that did not.

The conclusion is that "there is strong evidence that, at least in the two school districts under investigation in this study, Restorative Justice is helpful in addressing what has been a decade long problem of African American disproportionality in school discipline."

It would be interesting to see whether there are also similar studies around gender, SEN and socio-economic factors.

The whole paper is available here

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