Check out a video on Peer Court:
*This newly revised and updated second edition features edits to some of the previous activities as well as an additional lesson on behavior escalation/de-escalation strategies.*
Restorative practices have been proven to be a successful alternative to suspensions or punishments in schools (Ashley, 2003). In many situations, punitive consequences can often make the offender resentful or even worsen behaviors (Kiddle, 2011). Students rarely change their behavior as a result of being punished because they need opportunities to build appropriate social skills and to learn how to resolve their conflicts peacefully (Kiddle, 2011). Using restorative practices provide a meaningful alternative to typical punitive school discipline (Ashley, 2003). Offenders must take responsibility for their behaviors, work to have empathy for those to whom they have harmed, and are encouraged to make amends for their actions (Wachtel, 2012). This approach forces the student to think about how their actions have affected others. They also must take the steps needed to repair whatever damage they may have caused. Restorative practices utilize the input from three groups including the victim, the offender and the community members (in this case, a Peer Court, which consists of students trained as peer mediators who facilitate the restorative conferences) (Wachtel, 2012).
Restorative practices can be used for students in conflict with other students or staff members including teachers, custodians and even bus drivers (Kiddle, 2011). Of course, this approach is not always appropriate; especially if drugs, weapons, or extreme violence are involved.
For many years there have been numerous discussions on the effects of negative peer pressure on kids and adolescents in regards to drugs and violence. Restorative practices encourage the use of positive peer pressure where Peer Court members convey dislike for the offender’s behavior in a way adults cannot (Ashley, 2003). It also allows students to take a leadership role in setting school behavior expectations.