ERIC Number: EJ1023555
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Reference Count: 55
Student, Teacher, and Administrator Perspectives on Harm: Implications for Implementing Safe and Caring School Initiatives
Vaandering, Dorothy D.
Review of Education, Pedagogy & Cultural Studies, v35 n4 p298-318 2013
Creating safe, caring school environments continues to generate ongoing conversation in the media, professional journals, and academic research, especially through the persistent attention given to incidents and impact of bullying on youth. In Canada, several provincial governments have instituted or are debating the implementation of antibullying laws for school contexts (Mitchell 2012). Similar laws that threaten youth with criminal records in hopes of curbing bullying behaviours are in place in various states and countries around the world (Ali 2010; Dayton and Dupree 2009). In spite of research that indicates clearly that zero-tolerance policies and practices actually increase bullying behavior (Woods and Wolke 2003; Jull 2000; Stinchcombe, Bazemore, and Riestenberg 2006; Tebo 2000; Skiba and Peterson 1999), many continue to believe that inappropriate behavior can be changed with laws and law enforcement. This rampant perspective requires third-party intervention, which removes responsibility and accountability from those directly involved, increases anger and alienation, and perpetuates further harm (Christie 1977). The philosophical and theoretical foundation of restorative justice (RJ) suggests an alternative paradigm, one where the focus shifts from following and enforcing rules, to identifying who has been harmed, what their needs are, and how the harm can be repaired (Zehr 2005). This focus makes space for addressing the relational needs of all those involved instead of only highlighting the behavior. Responsibility and accountability for the impact of the harm is not handed over to a neutral party but remains with those directly involved. In essence, RJ is grounded in an understanding that stronger relationships result in the reduced likelihood of people harming each other, not increased punishment (International Institute for Restorative Practices n.d.). Early research indicates that schools engaged with RJ practices are able to cultivate more supportive relationships amongst all participants in the school community so that aggressive incidents are lowered substantially. Quantitatively, this is evident in the reduced numbers of suspensions, expulsions, and office referrals (Porter 2007). Qualitatively, reports indicate participants are satisfied with the process employed to address incidents of harm, have increased sense of safety and contentment while in school, and have an increased ability to focus on academic tasks (Thorsborne 2000). Though there may be other contributing factors to these outcomes, it is becoming clear that, as studies examining RJ increase, RJ principles and practices have the potential to impact school culture (McCluskey et al. 2008; Mirsky and Wachtel 2008; Morrison and Ahmed 2006; Porter 2007; Youth Justice Board 2004). Nevertheless, challenges do exist in implementing RJ approaches. To better understand the phenomenon which is threatening to interfere with the credibility and sustainability of RJ, this research project employed the conceptual framework of RJ to analyze what may be occurring.
Descriptors: Foreign Countries, Caring, School Safety, Educational Environment, Bullying, Justice, School Culture, Interpersonal Relationship, Student Attitudes, Teacher Attitudes, Administrator Attitudes, Elementary School Students, Elementary School Teachers, Secondary School Students, Secondary School Teachers, Qualitative Research, Case Studies, Focus Groups
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Education; Junior High Schools; High Schools; Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Canada