This Summary Report presents the findings and methodology of an evaluation of the implementation and effects of the use of restorative justice conferencing in middle and high schools in Rhode Island’s Central Falls School District.
The restorative justice conference (RJC) brings together victims and offenders who have harmed them to achieve a resolution that both holds offenders accountable for the harms their behaviors have caused and provides appropriate resources that constructively reform offender problem behaviors. When used in a school setting, RJC replaces disciplinary suspensions from school and the criminalization of minor infractions. Such responses to problem behaviors at school undermine the retention of behaviorally maladjusted students in a positive academic environment and fuel the “school-to-prison” pipeline, often disproportionately for students of color. RJC implementation began in fall 2014 in the middle and high schools in Central Falls. Starting in 2016-17, a middle and high school in Providence also participated in RJC. These four schools were the focus of the ongoing individual-level impact evaluation of RJC. RJC observations were also conducted in a participating charter high school. A total of 786 cases were referred for RJCs, with 379 of them being accepted for a conference. The analytical methods used in the evaluation are described in this report. The evaluation findings are reported to indicate there was no evidence of the hypothesized beneficial effect of RJC participation on subsequent school misbehavior. Possible explanations for these findings are offered. This report advises there is a need for the development of standard processes at other key steps of the restorative justice conferencing process, especially standardized referral and selection criteria and processes. This will provide better tests of the impact of school RJCs in addressing student misbehavior. 3 tables and 22 references