Outcomes of a Restorative Circles Program in a High School Setting

Lilyana Ortega, Mikhail Lyubansky, Saundra Nettles, Dorothy L. Espelage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Restorative justice (RJ) was introduced into school systems as an alternative to ineffective zero-tolerance policies as another way of dealing with a disciplinary infractions. While school-based RJ has been gaining popularity within the United States, empirical research has been lacking. One RJ approach is Restorative Circles (RC), which provide a space for those involved in conflict to repair harm through a facilitated dialogue process. Given the minimal research, the aim of the present study was to examine student and staff experiences and outcomes after participating in an RC program. Method: Semistructured interviews were conducted with 35 high school students and 25 staff and administrators involved in some capacity with the RC program at their school. All participants were from a high school in a large urban center in the Southeast United States. Results: As part of a larger study a theoretical model was developed using grounded theory methodology. The emergent model included the following constructs: culture, barriers, internal motivation, engagement with RC, and outcomes. Only outcomes will be discussed in the current study. Both negative and positive outcomes emerged from the interview data. For negative outcomes, frustration and disappointment were key themes. For positive outcomes, ownership of the process, interrupting the school to prison pipeline, improved relationships, prevention of destructive ways of engaging conflict, meaningful dialogue, and academic and social achievements were key themes. Conclusions: This study provides researchers and practitioners with a theoretical framework to use as a foundation to better understand how individuals experience RC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-468
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology of Violence
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • aggression
  • evidence-based practice
  • intervention
  • social ecology
  • transdiagnostic
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


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