U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Can Restorative Practices Improve School Climate and Curb Suspensions? An Evaluation of the Impact of Restorative Practices in a Mid-Sized Urban School District

NCJ Number
RAND Corporation Dated: 2018
Date Published
132 pages

This study is among the initial randomized controlled trials of the impacts of restorative practices on classroom and school climate, as well as suspension rates; and it also collected data on the implementation of school restorative practices to provide guidance for school districts in establishing such practices.


Restorative practices in schools include many program types and do not have one monolithic definition. Restorative practices are broadly viewed as a non-punitive approach to managing conflict. Restorative practices both prevent harm through relationship-building and respond to conflict in ways that restore damaged relationships. Anticipated outcomes for using restorative practices in school responses to harmful student behaviors are lower suspension rates, improved school climate, and improved student school attendance. The current study focused on the implementation and impact of restorative practices in Pittsburgh public schools (PPS), which serve approximately 25,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in 54 schools. The initiative is named Pursuing Equitable and Restorative Communities (PERC). Under a grant by the U.S. justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ), PPS contracted with the International Institute for Restorative Practices (HRP) to implement its SaferSanerSchools restorative practices model. This model requires all staff in a school to learn how to enact 11 essential elements of this restorative practices model. This evaluation examined how the PERC model was implemented, the impacts of PERC, and the likelihood that PERC will be sustained in PPS. The evaluation used a randomized controlled trial to determine PERC outcomes, and qualitative data were collected on implementation. The final samples consisted of 44 schools, evenly split between treatment (PERC schools) and control groups. Main evaluation findings were that implementation strategies for PERC were successful; the overall school climates improved, as rated by teachers; and the average student suspension rate was reduced, notably by race and family income. 26 tables, 10 figures, and 50 references

Date Published: January 1, 2018