Hello again and welcome to Bridge Builders Issue Two! In this edition, we will be reviewing two articles: Darling and Monk (2018) and Mansfield and colleagues (2018). Within both articles, we will explore how restorative justice practices have supported school systems in San Diego and Virginia, respectively. At the end of this edition, like in our first one, (linked, in case you missed it!) we will share our main takeaways from our Bridge Builders podcast. Our guests for this podcast episode are Jade and Adam, middle school teachers in New York and Maryland. We hope you enjoy this second edition and take a listen to Bridge Builder the Podcast, Episode Two.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Consistent educator training is a key component to implementing and sustaining racial and restorative justice practices within schools 
  • The disciplinary rates for students of color are impacted by the implementation of restorative justice practices in schools. Both articles demonstrated lesser suspension rates for Hispanic and Black students, respectively. 

Darling and Monk (2018) Overview  

In 2018, Darling and Monk did collaborative research with the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) to demonstrate the effects of implementing collaborative restorative practices in California’s second-largest school district. In July 2014, the SDUSD officially embraced restorative practices, shifting away from punitive approaches. A key reason that restorative justice was needed is due to the racial disparities that exist in school discipline, specifically with Black, Latine, and Indigenous American students facing higher rates of suspensions and expulsions. This affects their educational success and contributes to increased free time for suspended and expelled youth which potentially contributes to the likelihood of young people of color becoming part of the school-to-prison pipeline.  

Implementation and Staff Training 

  • Through three action-oriented collaborative cycles, educators enhanced their leadership skills to implement restorative approaches in six high schools and two middle schools.  
  • Data revealed that collaborative involvement enabled the educators and stakeholders to translate their ideas into effective restorative actions.  
  • These restorative justice-centered cycles led to participants supporting a shift in school culture from a restorative lens. 


The first year of the restorative collaborative yielded seven primary outcomes, centering on deepening relationship building, sharing of information, and training initiatives. Through these initiatives, the SDUSD saw a significant reduction in suspensions and expulsions, particularly for Latine students, who previously comprised 54% of suspensions and 59% of expulsions although only being 45% of the district’s population. This substantial decrease in suspensions and expulsions helped to alleviate the systemic disparities experienced by racially minoritized students who were disproportionately disciplined compared to their white peers. 

Application to Schools for Educators and Administrators: 

At the end of cycle three, collaborative participants shared their restorative implementation methods that have supported their progress through the program’s implementation. Successes related to restorative-centered development and implementation that may be applicable other schools were: 

  • Student-led training being hosted by one of the pilot schools. This allowed students to lead restorative community building circles in classrooms with focus on empathy, respect, and peer mediation. Teen court was also created to address more serious offenses.  
  • Implementation of monthly restorative and trauma informed professional development series for school faculty developed at one of the pilot schools. Educators were able to put the use of restorative practices as a professional goal on their evaluation. 
  • Creation of a restorative justice action group to discuss implementation of new initiatives. 
  • Consistency and patience with restorative practices lead to the creation of trust between school faculty and students.  Offering students and school personnel many opportunities to be as restorative as possible.  
  • Including special education students in restorative justice processes ensuring that these practices are inclusive and accessible to all. 
  • Creating space for parents and family members to be engaged in restorative practices to understand the processes and what restorative accountability or can be.  

Additionally, the following implementations were continued within the SDUSD and may be applicable for other schools as well: 

  • Continued Engagement: Restorative educators committed to monthly meetings throughout the spring semester of the restorative district pilot program. These meetings persisted beyond the initial semester, extending into the second and third years of the restorative district initiative. 
  • Collaborative Efforts: Monthly collaborative meetings provided a supportive environment for restorative educators to navigate challenges they faced in switching from punitive discipline methods to restorative practices. 
  • Resource Videos: Two videos were produced by restorative collaborative members and the students they work with. The first video offered an overview of restorative practices across pilot sites, showcasing the collaborative efforts and the second video focused on student-led restorative circles at a pilot high school  
  • Restorative Website: Collaborative members, with the assistance of summer student interns, developed a comprehensive restorative website that serves as a centralized hub for restorative opportunities and knowledge for district staff, students, and community members. 
  • Restorative Listserv: A Listserv was established to distribute information on upcoming restorative opportunities and seek support in challenging situations. Restorative stakeholders could coordinate shadowing and co-facilitation for restorative circles or conferences. 
  •  Youth-Led Initiatives: In the second year, four restorative pilot schools began youth-led restorative programs in response to collaborative educators’ requests for and implementation of youth training. 
  • Summer Workshops at San Diego State University: San Diego State University’s extended studies program organized a series of three 15-hour summer workshops in response to increased demand for training. Twenty-three restorative educators from six schools attended these workshops, contributing to a broader restorative knowledge base for San Diego Unified district leaders. 

Mansfield and Colleagues (2018) Overview  

Mansfield and Colleagues (2018) Overview  

This case study takes place in a Central Virginia high school, Algonquin High School (AHS), whose administrators were alarmed by state and district-level trends in suspension and expulsion rates. Administration noted that exclusionary discipline practices were harmful to students along racial and gender lines and to those who receive special education services. The authors discussed American society’s belief in the “get tough on crime” approach, coupled with the implicit racial biases of teachers and administrators, as being contributing factors to the existing racial discipline gap. This work detailed the six-year process of the scaling up of restorative practices within AHS. In the final four years, AHS conducted ongoing evaluations of their restorative practices rollout. Suspension rates were examined considering students’ racial/ethnic background, gender identity, and those with identified disabilities.  

Implementation and Staff Training  

  • First year of implementation: AHS trained a small group of administrators and teachers, their school psychologist, and counselors.  
  • Third year of implementation: AHS partnered with a neighboring district, allowing for school staff across multiple buildings to receive training.  
  • Fifth year of implementation: a professional learning community was established, and AHS implemented restorative practices schoolwide.  


  • AHS administration felt there was a “positive shift in overall school culture.  
  • Office referral rates declined by over 80% over the course of four years.  
  • In school and out of school suspension rates were reduced by nearly 50% 
  • Black students’ suspension rates fell from 26% to 12% over four school years. 
  • Students receiving special education services were suspended at higher rates than all students but saw reduction.

Application to Schools for Educators and Administrators  

  • Restorative practices may reduce discipline gaps. 
    • The reduction of suspension rates for Black students points to the potential efficacy of restorative practices.  
  • Although discipline gaps shrank, they still persisted at AHS.
    • Schools must explore why racial discipline gaps exist in their contexts. 
  • Students displayed struggles adjusting to implementation.
    • Due to exclusionary practices and negative perceptions in schools, the adjustment to new practices may be most challenging for Black girls (see: Morris, 2021).
    • Teacher surveys and student focus groups should be used to best understand perceptions.
    • Surveys should work to understand challenges from perspectives of students’ racial and gender identities. 
  • Staff may not persist in implementation due to unrealistic expectations of rapid change. 
    • Schools should ensure staff know the longitudinal nature of change, and commitment necessary, for a restorative practices rollout
    • Administrators should persist in addressing racial discipline gaps  

 We hope that the article summaries have been insightful to ways racial and restorative justice can be implemented, supported, and improved within schools. Our podcast episode (linked here) with Adam and Jade offered impactful insights that contribute greatly to what restorative and racial justice looks like in schools. Below, find five of the takeaways we found significant when we spoke to them. 

Takeaways from our Conversation with Jade and Adam: 

  • Restorative and racial justice must be “in the water”
    Racial and restorative justice should be at the forefront of the school community. Restorative practices must be present and prevalent in the fabric of the school for everyone to benefit. 
  • Restorative justice supports young peoples’ development as they grow.
    Teaching youth to talk about issues they are experiencing with peers or adults can support their emotional growth as they navigate various life circumstances. Building a restorative toolkit with the support of others can give students an opportunity to self-reflect and deepen their relationships. Additionally, student leadership in schools with restorative efforts promotes leadership amongst each other that can be very impactful. 
  • Young people should be able to question adults in an appropriate manner.
    Often, young people are taught that they should not question adults. However, students should be guided to appropriately ask questions or express themselves when something feels unfair or uncomfortable. For example, cultural differences can create misunderstandings or perceived disrespect for a student or educator and should be unpacked in a restorative way. 
  • Self-work and reflection are critical to restorative and racial justice.
    It is important for us to continuously look inward at our own biases and preconceptions. Restorative conversations allow us to see each person we are in conflict with as an individual. Through each conversation, it is key to notice any biases that may be reflected in our work and the way we view others. 
  • School leadership sets the tone and can support buy-in for restorative practices
    Educators may require convincing that restorative justice is necessary. School leadership should support and encourage school faculty by acknowledging that racial and restorative practices cannot be opted out of. Leadership modeling courageous conversations with educators can help create a wholly restorative school community.  

Thank you for reading and listening to another installment of Bridge Builders: The Newsletter and Podcast. We are grateful to do this work and share it with others. We strongly believe that community is a valuable asset and want to extend gratitude to you for being part of our Bridge Builders community. Until next time!

With hope and solidarity,

Olivia Marcucci, Faculty Editor
Mercedes Alicea and Alex Parker, Co-authors