California’s recent expansion of a ban on student suspension is sparking debate about whether other disciplinary tactics mete out enough discipline.

In the wake of the statewide law, for example, some school districts that are banning or limiting suspensions are simultaneously introducing restorative practices, which are being unfairly criticized in our view.

Restorative practices include teachers and staff working more collaboratively with students and encouraging them to express their feelings in different ways and to understand and respect others. A focus is on healing the hurt associated with negative behaviors.

Opponents characterize restorative approaches as anti-discipline and claim these approaches don’t hold students sufficiently accountable for their actions. That is not true: Restorative approaches, by definition, provide high levels of accountability. They are emerging as an alternative to zero-tolerance approaches that see students who’ve committed wrongful actions be suspended without hearing about the impacts of their actions — directly from their victims — and without explicitly focusing on repairing the harm done.

But the meetings among affected parties allow victims a voice in the proceedings and to have a say in how to hold the offender accountable. In addition to suspension, the offender is asked to repair the harm done, for example through community service or by writing an apology letter to the victim.

When done well, restorative approaches aren’t just reactive. They also include practices that are used to proactively build relationships among students and between students and staff. For example, a recent report and study, both from the RAND Corporation, found that restorative experiences were associated with more positive outcomes critical to forming better relationships among middle school students — e.g., social skills, empathy and attachment.

Read the full article about restorative justice by Joie Acosta at The Hechinger Report.