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From Zero Tolerance to Restorative Justice: Implementing Restorative Justice in a High School System

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Implementation of large-scale initiatives within educational systems can present many challenges, particularly when the initiative is non-linear and relies on deep understanding rooted in a restorative mindset. This study examined

Implementation of large-scale initiatives within educational systems can present many challenges, particularly when the initiative is non-linear and relies on deep understanding rooted in a restorative mindset. This study examined implementation of restorative justice within one large, primarily urban school district in the United States. Through a mixed methods approach, data was collected from three personnel levels of the organization: district leadership, school leadership, and school staff members and applied a sensemaking framework to examine the flow of information and understanding within and among organizational levels. To accomplish this investigation, both qualitative and quantitative data were collected. First, interview data was collected from district and school level leaders to inform supportive leadership actions and organizational structures and also to understand challenges that leaders faced when working to implement restorative justice within a district and across a school campus. Next, school staff members participated in a survey to provide deeper understanding regarding their confidence in implementing restorative justice practices, their perceptions of school and district level administrative support, and the alignment of their beliefs and actions with tenets of restorative justice. Finally, results were analyzed and compared across levels of the organization to provide a summary of findings and recommendations for ongoing and expanded implementation at the school at the focus of the study and across other schools within the district.

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  • 2020