How to Use This Site

So… what exactly is this website?

The website is a tool for community education and action about how to deepen and strengthen restorative justice in schools, guided by the expertise and experiences of youth, families, and school staff already building restorative justice in schools. On this site, you can…

  • Explore 10 Themes from our focus group discussions about building restorative justice, safety, accountability, and healing in schools. You’ll get to dig deep into the big takeaways, challenges, and strategies for how to make it happen–and hear from youth, parents, and school staff in their own words.
  • Start taking action! More than anything, we want this virtual space to be a springboard for you to continue the conversation and take action in the real world. Check out our Take Action page for downloadable action tools from this project, and a collection of other resources to learn more and get involved.

There are many resources about restorative justice out there, so here is a quick breakdown of what this website is… and what it isn’t.

This site IS…This site is NOT…
An in-depth look at lessons from an NYC-based participatory action research project about building restorative, healing-centered school cultures.An introduction to restorative justice theory and practice.
A tool for building community, having difficult conversations, and collaborative problem-solving.A one-size-fits-all instruction manual or training guide.
A chance to reflect on specific strategies and challenges in this work.An exhaustive review of restorative justice history and research.
A platform for real-world action & community transformation.Research for the sake of doing research.

Who is this site for?

This website was designed primarily as a resource for youth and adults who have (at least some) familiarity with restorative justice in their schools, communities, or organizing spaces. This site is also a place for anyone to learn more about the On Our Terms project and to take action to support the movement for restorative, healing-centered schools.

Brand new to restorative justice? Before diving in, you might find it helpful to check out this playlist of videos from RestorativeDC including video intros to restorative justice,  restorative approaches to school discipline, and circles (and more!).

How should I use this site?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to restorative justice, and there is no one “right” way to use this website. How you use this site will look different depending on your specific situation: your role in your school or community, your experience with restorative justice, and how you want to use your talents and skills to push this work forward.

Excited to soak up everything we learned? Explore the themes. Ready to fight for change? Jump straight to the Take Action page. Want to keep the conversation going? Check out our Community Conversation tools.  More of a linear thinker? Download and read the PDF report. Feeling inspired? Use one of the themes to inform your organizing or art.

We know that this website holds a LOT of information–a result of the rich stories and wisdom of the youth and adults who’ve participated in On Our Terms over the years. You don’t need to read everything all at once, and you don’t have to engage with it in a certain order. Engage at your pace, in whatever way is most helpful or meaningful to you. 

Looking for a little more inspiration? Here are some ideas about how you can use this site to support your work in schools and organizing, depending on your role. If you are a….

  • Youth leader: Use the Community Conversation Tools with students and/or adults in your school or organization to explore themes from On Our Terms. You could pick one topic to explore in a youth-led town hall discussion, or facilitate an ongoing series of community-building circles in a classroom or advisory to dig into multiple themes.
  • Restorative justice coordinator: Pick a theme that connects to an issue you’re dealing with in your school. Read and reflect on the theme and recommendations with other staff (or students and families!). Building on your conversation, collaborate to create a concrete plan for how your school community can move forward in that specific area.
  • Classroom teacher or advisory facilitator: Use the ten themes and/or community conversation tools as the basis for a curriculum and discussion series with students in a restorative justice class or advisory, over the course of a semester or year. This curriculum can supplement training in circle facilitation or peer mediation.
  • Parent with a leadership role in your child’s school: Check out recommendations for school practice and identify one or two key areas that you want to work on in collaboration with other parents, staff, and/or youth. Just starting out? You might want to focus on community building and culture change as a way to build trust and some shared understanding before moving on to other topics.
  • Community organizer: From base building to advocating in front of elected officials, the site can serve as a resource in growing and mobilizing people power. Take a look at our community conversation tools for guides on intergenerational conversations that can introduce and bring people into the conversation on restorative justice in schools, and our policy recommendations that consolidate our recommendations on policy-based changes that are able to support the growth of this work.

Will this website tell me everything I ever wanted to know about restorative justice?

Not likely! This website gives an in-depth look at what a diverse group of NYC youth, educators, parents, and organizers think about restorative justice, safety, and accountability in schools. It’s an important, thought-provoking set of perspectives, but it won’t answer every question; if anything, it will probably get you asking more questions!

And that’s the whole point: we hope this website gets you thinking deeply about what restorative justice looks like when it’s On Our Terms, and the collective action it will take to get us there. (P.S. There are many other amazing resources that give a broader overview of restorative justice! You can find some of these on our Resources page.)

How are you defining restorative justice?

This website includes a LOT of writing and quotes about restorative justice (and sometimes transformative justice! More on that below). There are two important things to keep in mind about how we talk about restorative justice on this website.

First, this project grew from the shared understanding of our team that restorative justice is a holistic framework for being in community with each other, in and out of conflict. This includes how we respond to conflict and harm–with a focus on understanding root causes, addressing harm caused, and prevention, but it also prioritizes community building and healing. Far more than just an “alternative to suspension,” we see restorative justice as a set of values and practices that can shape broader school culture–and this website reflects this cultural approach.

Second, the driving force behind this project has always been to center youth, educator, and parent experiences of what restorative justice looks like and feels like when it’s ‘in the bones’ of a school. Our focus group participants self-identified as having experience with restorative justice or transformative justice in schools–meaning we relied on their definitions of these practices. As you read through this site, you might not agree with everyone’s ideas about restorative justice or transformative justice, and that’s okay! But keep in mind that folks are describing the specific community practices and commitments that they believe are important for building safe, restorative, and healing-centered school cultures–even if they fall outside of a ‘textbook definition’ of restorative justice–and they deserve to be taken seriously. Highlighting the common themes that were heard across our focus groups, the ten themes on this website help to paint the picture of what restorative justice and healing-centered schools can look like when it’s On Our Terms.

What about transformative justice?

In this project, we focus on “restorative justice” in schools. But within our research team and focus group participants, there are many who described transformative justice as a personal commitment or as the specific approach adopted by their school, and you’ll see this language on this website.

Broadly speaking, transformative justice acknowledges that harm is not only caused by individuals–it is also caused by institutions (like schools) and structural forces (like systemic racism, misogyny, homophobia…). Within this framework, identifying and understanding these systems of harm and fighting to disrupt them are not only seen as essential to healing on individual and community levels, but are also able to shift dynamics of interpersonal harm that communities experience day-to-day. Even though only a handful of focus group participants named transformative justice directly, many of the themes that emerged across our discussions resonated with this approach.