To the Editor:
The Commentary essay by Richard Ullman (“,” Sept. 14, 2016) led me to empathize with the author’s obvious frustrations and concerns about disruptive behaviors. However, he clearly misunderstands restorative justice/restorative practices, and so he ends up giving readers a parody of the actual philosophy and practice of these useful and now globally recognized processes.
Ullman wants a “fix it” (his words) approach to behavior and he wants restorative practices to be “behavior management” schemes, but they are not. Nor are they supposed to replace consequences or punishments, where appropriate. Restorative practices have a well-researched basis in social and emotional human-behavior theory. They are focused on how best to bring consensus and resolution to the kinds of conflict that often are the root of unruly or disruptive behaviors in schools.
My best guess is that the author might be the bystander who has witnessed educators managing restorative practices poorly or without proper training. I can point him to many schools, including those I work with, that have very difficult socioeconomic contexts in which restorative practices have made a significant contribution to better climate and culture, which are, after all, the bedrocks on which we build learning.
Baltimore Curriculum Project
A version of this article appeared in the October 12, 2016 edition of Education Week as Commentary ‘Parodies’ Restorative Justice