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A Look at the Results of Our Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project

Today, we are releasing the findings of the Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project, a four-year school-based pilot program in partnership with the NYC Department of Education and the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline.

The project—which focused on a small cohort of Brooklyn secondary schools—aimed to implement restorative justice as an alternative to punitive discipline; with a goal to positively transform schools, repair harm, and promote the equitable treatment of Black students, students with disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ students citywide. 

The Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project is unique in that it prioritized addressing racial disparities in school discipline, and offers much needed research on restorative justice implementation. Findings from the project evaluation include an overall reduction in suspensions at participating schools, an increase in students’ sense of safety, as well as equitable access across student populations to non-punitive disciplinary responses. Moreover, the project has yielded a series of comprehensive recommendations for school administrators and educators on how to successfully implement restorative justice practices to achieve racially just and culturally responsive school cultures.

“We initiated the Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project to advocate for, and invest in, changes to our education system from within. Restorative justice offers a powerful tool for transforming the ways our schools value and respect all students, especially Black youth. At this time when our nation is crying out for racial justice and communities of color are reeling from the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools can be lifelines for young people. But to fulfill this promise, we must redesign them with racial justice and equity at their core.” - Brooklyn Community Foundation President and CEO Cecilia Clarke

The Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project has helped inform and advance the NYC Department of Education’s goals of implementing restorative justice citywide, while bringing greater attention to the critical need to address anti-Black racism in school discipline. At the start of the project, there were nearly 38,000 suspensions citywide, compared to 70,000 in the 2010-11 school year. However, Black students received 52% of suspensions—even though they represent 26% of the student population, and students with special needs, who are 20% of the overall population, received 38% of all suspensions. In the 2018-19 school year, the total number of suspensions dropped to 32,801—yet profound disparities remained in regard to which students were punished. Black students received nearly 45% of suspensions, and 40% of all suspensions were issued to students with special needs.

“Brooklyn Community Foundation deserves a ton of credit. They were among the first to partner with us on restorative justice and helped kick start the NYC Department of Education’s restorative justice pilot programs in 150 schools citywide. Their partnership helped make this critical change real for our schools and our students.” - Kenyatte Reid, Executive Director of the Office of Safety and Youth Development within the New York City Department of Education


What is Restorative Justice? In schools, restorative justice aims to deter suspensions, school-based arrests, and all forms of disproportionately punitive discipline that largely target Black and Latinx students, students with special needs, and LGBTQ+ students and contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline, while improving overall school climate and student outcomes. Instead, students are encouraged to activate social-emotional learning (SEL) skills by focusing on emotion identification, conflict resolution and problem solving. The use of these skills become part of a school’s daily practice. Students are taught to become leaders in their lives, and adults are trained in the restorative framework, recognizing that outside factors often have significant impacts on a students’ day-to-day response and those responses must be addressed through multiple approaches.


The Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project began in the fall of 2015, when Brooklyn Community Foundation began funding nonprofit organizations to place full-time restorative justice coordinators in a small cohort of Brooklyn secondary schools selected by the Department of Education and the Mayor’s Office. We enlisted education researcher Dr. Anne Gregory at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology to evaluate the project using a racial justice lens, beginning in the spring of 2015-16 school year and concluding in the 2018-19 school year.

Dr. Gregory designed implementation measurements, established benchmarks, and surveyed progress and setbacks over a 3.5 year period. Schools and partner nonprofit organizations were evaluated based on improvements in school culture and a reduction in conflict, violent infractions, and suspensions. “The project has been innovative through its explicit integration of racial justice and restorative justice initiatives,” said Dr. Gregory. “In addition, it has contributed much-needed understanding about the opportunities and challenges of implementation—a vastly under-studied area.”

Dr. Gregory has produced two key documents from her study of the Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project, which are aimed at informing educators and school administrators at large on best practices for racially justice restorative justice implementation: 

  • Evaluating Restorative Justice in Three Secondary Schools: Fidelity of Implementation and School Climate, Equity, and Safety Outcomes [Executive Summary Download]
  • 12 Indicators of Restorative Practices Implementation: A Checklist for Administration [Download]

 

Learn More

Join us on Wednesday, October 14th to learn from our project evaluator and partners: RSVP

Amy Chou Sheikh

Senior Program Officer (She/Her/Hers)
“The project has been innovative through its explicit integration of racial justice and restorative justice initiatives. In addition, it has contributed much-needed understanding about the opportunities and challenges of implementation—a vastly under-studied area.” - Dr. Anne Gregory, Project Evaluator