Graduation Date

5-2018

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department or Program

Education

Department or Program Chair

Elizabeth Truesdell, Ph.D.

First Reader

Jennifer Lucko, Ph.D.

Second Reader

Shadi Roshandel, Ph.D.

Abstract

As more and more schools work to develop equitable and effective discipline strategies many are turning to restorative practices. However, there is no one correct way to implement a successful restorative justice program so schools are left to experiment with different practices and procedures to determine what works best for their school community. Research suggests that there are numerous benefits to developing a restorative program at a school but studies largely exclude the student perspective. Since students are a central part of a meaningful restorative justice program, it is important to hear their voices and experiences. The purpose of this research project is to better understand how student-leaders at a suburban middle school perceive their newly implemented restorative justice program and learn what their experiences can teach administrators and staff about how to improve the program. This research study focuses data collection on the student experience. Research methods include a focus group with student-leaders, interviews with administrators, and anonymous online surveys with the same student-leaders from the focus group. Findings suggest that restorative programs are most successful with students and teachers involved in the program understand and maintain their distinct roles in the restorative process. When roles are correctly implemented, student-leaders experience empowerment and leadership in their school community. As demonstrated in the findings, a lack of maintaining these roles leads to disempowerment of students. Additionally, it is crucial that the greater student body and school community understanding the purpose and process of a restorative program in order for the program to be successful.

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