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Pittsburg Unified School District

Every Scholar, Every Day. They Deserve Nothing Less Than Our Best.

Pittsburg Unified School District

Every Scholar, Every Day. They Deserve Nothing Less Than Our Best.
PUSD is currently integrating Restorative Justice practices into our school disciplinary actions. We are partnering with the SEEDS organization. Restorative Justice is a set of principles and practices that are aimed to build community and respond to student misconduct, with the goals of repairing harm and restoring relationships.



Restorative Justice is a set of principles used to repair harm that results from misbehavior.  For example, a misbehaving student might subsequently be asked to write an apology letter to take responsibility for the rule and trust violated by his/her actions, poor choices made and alternatives, to repair previous actions.  Restorative justice fits nicely into the universal tier of the Pittsburg Behavior Support Model by adding empathy-based, relationship repairing interventions to the teacher’s and administrators’ toolbox rather than relying on referral and suspension for disruption and defiance.  Restorative practices would not replace referral and suspension, but instead build staff capacity.  While the universal approach to school-wide behavior support involves teaching staff and students to restore through healing words and actions, be attending to the effect misbehavior has on relationships and acknowledge responsibility for poor choices. 
–Dr. Catalde and Dr. Frazier-Myers


Restorative Conversations
Use restorative questions, communication skills and mediation technique to create dialogue around difficult topics, diffuse tense situations and resolve misunderstandings.
Instead of approaching conflicts by asking: “Who broke the rule?”, “What rule was broken?” and “What is the appropriate punishment for breaking this rule?”, restorative conversations use restorative questions based on the 3 Be’s that ask:
  • “What harm has been caused?” or “What happened?”
  • “How does this harm impact relationships with one another?”
  • “Who among the people involved can help repair the harm?”
  • What are the needs and obligations that have arisen from the harm?”
Community Building Circles
An effective tool in restorative justice practices is community building circles. Circles are meetings or gatherings that are held sitting or standing in a circle. Procedures are put into place and collectively agreed upon that have the purpose of creating an inclusive space where all participants can share stories, experiences, feelings and expressions about various topics that impact themselves and their community.
-SEEDS Community Resolutions Center


The following is a list of Restorative Principles that are being implemented district wide.
  • Acknowledges that relationships are central to building community
  • Builds systems that address misbehavior and harm in a way which strengthens relationships.
  • Focuses on the harm done rather than only on rule-breaking.
  • Gives voice to the person harmed.
  • Engages in collaborative problem solving.
  • Empowers change and growth.
  • Enhances responsibility.


“What’s fundamental about restorative justice (practices) is a shift away from thinking about laws being broken, who broke the law and how we punish the people who broke the laws.  There’s a shift to: there was harm caused, or there’s disagreement or dispute, there’s conflict, and how do we repair the harm, address the conflict, meet the needs, so that relationships and community can be repaired and restored.  It’s a different orientation.  It is a shift.”  -Cheryl Graves, Community Justice for Youth Institute
Paradigm Shift: relationship based
Traditional Approach
  • School and rules violated
  • Justice focuses on establishing guilt
  • Accountability = punishment
  • Justice directed at offender, victim ignored
  • Rules ad intent outweigh whether outcome is positive/negative
  • No opportunity for remorse or amends
Restorative Approach
  • People and relationships violated
  • Justice identifies needs and obligations
  • Accountability = understanding impact, repairing harm
  • Offender, victim and school all have direct roles in justice process
  • Offender is responsible for harmful behavior, repairing harm and working toward positive outcomes
  • Opportunity given for amends and expression of remorse


Scholars of school age spend 70% of their waking hours outside of school; including weekends, holidays and summer vacation.  (Why Disadvantaged Children Succeed, Public Welfare, Spring, 1990 p. 17-23, Clark, R.M.)  The sooner the child’s caregiver becomes involved in the child’s life the more powerful the effect.  One of the most effective forms of involvement are those caregivers who work directly with their children on learning activities at home and expose their children to appropriate behavior.  (Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, School Improvement Research Series.  Parent Involvement in Education, Cotton, KI Wikelund, K.)  Giving Caregivers Restorative Justice Information- It is important to give information at parent meetings, in parent newsletters, and on the internet or website.
  • How do I teach the best behavior to my child? What is the correct behavior consistent with what my student is learning in school?
    • Start with teaching these positive behavior expectations that are also termed Pittsburg USD School-Wide Rules: Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible.
  • When your child violates one of the Behavior Expectations also termed School-Wide Rules (Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible do the following:
    • Ask child what expectation he violated that caused him/her to make a behavior mistake. Child should be able to select Be Safe, or Be Respectful, or Be Responsible.  If she/he cannot answer the question, assist child with answer.
    • Remain calm when talking to your child. Your goal is to teach correct behavior and support your child so that the mistake will not continue.
    • Ask child how he/she was not safe or respectful or responsible and why.
    • Guide child to give you correct answer if he/she cannot answer.
    • Have child demonstrate the correct behavior.
    • Give child choices on how to correct the problem and accept consequences of the behavior.
      • Example: If child left room or house area uncleaned, request that child to clean room or house area, and give an additional house area to clean within reasonable time.
    • Consequences should relate to the child’s behavior mistake.
    • Lastly describe a positive trait about your child and tell her/him that you have confidence that they will keep their room clean in the future.


Currently 27 schools in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) use the Restorative Justice approach.  According to officials from OUSD, there has been a drop in suspensions, chronic absenteeism, and an increase in graduation rates.  OUSD will be expanding the use of the Restorative Justice model to all 86 schools in the district.
“These positive impacts speak to the need to accelerate the programs in the next five years,” said Oakland schools Superintendent, Antwan Wilson.  “Restorative justice gives students a voice, to be seen as individuals who can problem-solve and understand the circumstances that impacted another person’s feelings.”  In schools that have the programs, suspensions dropped by more than half over three years starting in 2011, from 34 percent to 14 percent, according to a new district report.
Graduation rates increased 60 percent at high schools with the programs, compared to 7 percent at schools without them, and chronic absenteeism dropped 24 percent at middle schools with the programs, compared to a 62 percent increase at those middle schools that didn’t have them.  Having a Restorative Justice program in a school increases student engagement, brings in a more positive social environment, and teaches problem-solving, all of which contribute to the better academic results said Data In Action founder, Sonia Jain-Aghi, who helped compile the recently released report.  San Jose Mercury News


Seeing ourselves as trauma stewards is an opportunity to change our way of experiencing our day-to-day lives while we also enhance the impact we have on others in our school communities.  It’s a viewpoint without a focus on our struggle.  Instead, we focus on our well-being and our daily interactions; how we approach, navigate and travel through challenges.  “It’s imperative for our emotional well-being that we acknowledge and recognize the effect of secondary trauma in our daily work and scholars’ daily life experiences.  We accumulate and carry the stories of trauma, including images, sounds and resonant details we have heard which then come to inform our world view” (Joyful Heart Foundation, 2014a).  Secondary trauma, vicarious trauma and burnout are terms used to describe our experience of being overwhelmed by the challenges faced by those in our care.  By remaining self-aware, or mindful, “we improve the capacity to regulate emotion, to combat emotional dysfunction, to improve patterns of thinking, and then reduce negative mindsets” (Siegel, 2007).  We must “stay fully present in our experience no matter how difficult” (van Dernoot Lipsky & Burk, 2009).  So what we can do to attain this balance in our lives and our interactions with students?  Take the time to take deep breaths and to stretch during day.  Strive to take outdoor breaks throughout the day.  Notice what is beautiful around you.  Check in with colleagues or friends.  Quietly listen and attune to them while they speak and then it’s your turn (van Dernoot Lipsky & Burk, 2009).  By the Journal of Safe Management of Disruptive and Assaultive Behavior Fall 2014


We are a Community.  Recognizing that the strength and health of the community (among students, staff, and families) directly impacts school climate (sense of belonging and connectedness) and academic achievement.  Every member of the community is important and contributes greatly.  Each person’s actions affect the health of the community in a positive or negative way.  Recommendation: constantly refer to the student, staff and family groups as a “community,” and stress the importance of having a strong, healthy community.  SFUSD
What is the Relationship like?  Reinforcing the importance of positive relationships is essential to the development of a strong community.  Positive relationships lay the foundation for cooperation, skill development and learning.  Recommendation: constantly inquire about the strength of the “relationship/s” between/among students, staff and families.  Celebrate positive relationships and when challenges arise, specifically ask, “what is the relationship like between…” (students, yourself and your students, a particular student and his/her classroom peers, staff members, etc.)  Self-reflect on your own relationships with school community members and ask others to reflect on their relationships.  SFUSD
What happened?  Ask open-ended questions that allow for a genuine retelling of an experience.  Recommendation:  Do not ask they “why” question.  Instead, ask “what happened?” when inquiring about specific actions or behaviors.
Who is Impacted (harmed) by what happened?  For both positive and negative actions, recognizing impact to teach that one’s actions affect the greater community.  It is equally important to reinforce positive impact, as it is to teach that negative behavior harms relationships and the health of the community.  Recommendation:  Consider age appropriate language to use in response to students and staff actions/behaviors, reinforcing the importance of positive relationships and community.  SFUSD