Growing up with anxiety in school is an all-too-common experience that perpetuates a cycle of fear and resentment. It’s time to acknowledge and address this narrative that adversely affects our youth’s learning experiences and the education system.

Negative labeling of students can severely impact their confidence and sense of self. As a former “troublemaker,” I know firsthand how difficult it can be to overcome such labeling.

Participating in a restorative justice program allowed me to take responsibility for my actions, repair relationships and gain the confidence I needed to succeed. By providing restorative justice programs, we can help students become positive and engaged members of their school communities.

Restorative justice is an alternative to suspension that involves having those in conflict talk through their issues with a mediator. The goal is for students who have misbehaved to understand any harm they’ve caused and work to repair it and restore relationships. It offers a beacon of hope, a transformative approach prioritizing connection over isolation and understanding over punitive discipline.

Students need to feel that those with power see their life experiences. They should not be subjected to pointless punishment that has no value other than the punishment itself.

Restorative justice empowers students to take responsibility for their actions. Providing a safe dialogue space helps students learn how to communicate effectively, build empathy and establish trust with their peers and teachers. By embracing restorative justice, schools can create a culture of accountability, healing and growth that benefits everyone involved.

But restorative justice is not just about addressing behavior problems; it’s also about addressing the underlying issues driving those behaviors, often stemming from trauma, neglect or systemic injustices. Restorative justice recognizes that everyone has unique circumstances and challenges and deserves personalized support to address their needs. Many students do not have access to the resources needed to address their mental and emotional concerns, and they do not have the proper tools to deal with everything they go through in their lives. Instead, they manifest their struggles through misbehavior. They need someone to recognize their lived experiences and help them confront the sources of their actions.

Read the full article about restorative justice by Jully Myrthil at The Hechinger Report .