Restorative Justice approaches use the incident of misbehaviour as an educative opportunity for repairing the harm, by fostering more socially responsible relationships and behaviours that take others’ perspectives into account.
This is achieved through carefully structured opportunities for individuals to understand the impact of their actions, recognise their social responsibilities and make amends to those who have been affected.
The young person is also assisted to reintegrate successfully into the school community.
The most common form of restorative justice is community conferencing. Others include the ‘Method of Shared Concern’, the ‘No Blame’ approach, restitution, and the formal apology.
The key principles of these methods in anti-bullying work are:
- Bullying and harassment occur in the context of group behaviour.
- The aim is to develop empathy and concern for others.
- The dynamics that sustain bullying and harassment can be shifted by working with the perpetrators, and often their family and/or peer group.
- A shift in behaviour can be achieved by developing a sense of shared concern for the bullied or harassed persons.
- Punitive measures model and reinforce the abuse of power to meet individual needs, place the target at greater risk of revenge and may send the bullying underground.
Restorative justice approaches require these factors to be in place first:
- Support for the victimised person who needs to have identified that he/she is being bullied and is confident that the approach advocated will work.
- Preliminary investigation to clearly understand the issues before the process is implemented.
- Staff guidelines and professional development to build understanding, skills and confidence in using the strategies
- Support within the school community for the approach
- Agreement that the goal is to solve the problem rather than to interrogate, punish, blame or label individuals
- Respectful facilitation of the process by trained people
- Follow-up monitoring of the agreement.