Traditional approaches to anti-social behaviour focus on suspension and expulsion.
“However, US research evidences that young people who are forced out of school even short term fall behind in their studies, may often drop out of school altogether, and fall into the criminal justice system” Varnham said.
“Although there is no research documenting this path in Australia, it would be unrealistic to imagine that it is immune.”
As such, Australian educators are starting to look at restorative measures designed to change school cultures
“Restorative practice is based on the need to build positive learning environments reinforced by constructive relationships, trust, self-discipline and accountability.”
“It shifts the focus from punishment and retribution to offending students taking responsibility for their actions to rebuild impacted relationships.”
Aspects of restorative practice gaining traction in Australian schools include “circles”, peer mediation and conferences.
“Circles” usually occur in small groups or classes to have open discussion of behavioural issues which are affecting them all.
Peer mediation involves students sitting with a neutral mediator to identify issues and agree to a resolution.
“The rationale behind peer mediation in schools is that it is a more constructive problem-solving approach, empowering students to work out differences and to work towards solutions on their own.”
Conferences bring together all involved with the aim of clarifying what occurred and collectively provide a solution.
“These can range from a small meeting to address student wrongdoing to the whole-school community if a serious wrongdoing or an epidemic of the problem has occurred.
“Ultimately restorative practices are about conflict resolution and relationship-building in the school community generally. They aim to reduce anti-social behaviour, conflict, and disciplinary issues by changing school cultures.”