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What is Restorative Justice in Education?

Restorative justice is a form of justice that centers around the concept of involved restitution. In a case that is settled through restorative justice, the offense is paid for through the establishment of a restitution agreement that all parties find fitting of the offense.

A restorative agreement involves not only the offender, but also the surrounding community as well. Should the nature of the offense that has been committed have involved personal harm or loss is experienced by multiple victims, the agreement may be looked to as the most satisfactory form of retribution. In other cases, this form of justice might be resorted to in order to satisfy the need for retribution when the exact legal protocol is somewhat abstract.

Though there are great many different number of cases that may potentially call for restorative action, the unifying factor in all cases involving this form of justice is that the victim themselves also plays an active role in their retribution. The offender doesn’t simply carry out the sentence on their own, but is joined in their involvement by whomever has been victimized by their actions. The exact extent of the sentence is determined in terms of what the community, the victim, and the offender themselves sees necessary for redemption.

A Possible Preventative Measure for Future Offenses

In addition to being a form of retribution for whatever offense has been committed, restorative settlements are also intended to be a way to minimize the chances that the offender will commit the crimes again in the future. In a sense, this form of justice can be referred to as both an attempted form of retribution and rehabilitation.

This concept is based on the philosophical principle that people are fundamentally “good” and can be made to see the error of their ways if they are given the opportunity to address the wrongs and actively correct their own behavior with active effort. In the context of education, the concept may apply to any offenses that could disrupt the efficacy and safety of the academic setting.

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One of the biggest and most controversial areas that the concept addresses in education is sexual harassment. In recent years, schools have taken a greater interest in exploring restorative justice. Schools have been examining the concept of having those found guilty of a sexual offense in an academic setting being given the opportunity to redeem themselves through restorative initiatives.

Restoration Versus Punishment

While some victims who support the concept have expressed the belief that their main priority is for the offenders to understand that what they have done has caused tangible harm, the concept of has not been met without some form of resistance.

The dialogue that has occurred about this concept on school campuses has involved a heated back and forth between those who believe that the offender should be made to understand their wrongdoing and those who prioritize punishment over all else. Whatever the case may be, the core of this form of justice is fundamentally based on prioritizing the needs of the victims and having all parties engaged in the recovery.

Ideally, through an involved network composed of the victim, the offender, and the community as a whole, the resolution of an incident between two individuals can ideally be expanded into a processes that benefits everyone. This is the goal of restorative justice.

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