Relationships of control and relationships of engagement: how educator intentions intersect with student experiences of restorative justice

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    The practice and popularity of restorative justice (RJ) in education has been growing in recent years. RJ can be understood in dramatically different ways by those implementing it. For some, RJ is about creating an environment of and for student engagement that challenges traditional systems of discipline and facilitates learning. For others, RJ is simply another tool for solidifying compliance and meting out punishment, albeit in a kinder, gentler way. This comparative case study focused on the use of RJ in one school in Scotland and one in Canada, exploring the intersection between educator intentions and student experiences. I determined that the key element is not the implementation of RJ, but the school’s predominant relational objectives. In a school where relational objectives are of social control, RJ is utilized to strengthen that control. Where the relational objectives are of social engagement, RJ is utilized to strengthen that engagement. RJ in schools is a window into what is most fundamental to students: relationships. The study argues that RJ, by itself, does not guarantee certain qualities of relationship, but it does allow us to examine those qualities and ask questions of how school relationships are used to engage and/or control students.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)49-77
    Number of pages29
    JournalJournal of Peace Education
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • discipline
    • relationship
    • Restorative justice
    • school climate
    • social control

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