Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Zorka Karanxha, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Deirdre Cobb-Roberts, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tanetha Fisher, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Mann III, Ph.D.


Restorative Justice, Restorative Practices, School Culture, Student Discipline


The use of restorative justice in the school system is an emerging philosophy for handling student discipline that seeks alternative methods for solving problematic behavior than traditional or retributive approaches that are detrimental to the education and well-being of students. Student discipline is a controversial topic in education circles, resulting in many school districts looking to implement restorative practice program initiatives. Responses that are restorative, largely decrease the chances of recidivism. Zero-tolerance policies that were originally enforced to keep schools safe, have proven to not have the desired effect as intended, most arguably making schools less safe. There is a growing body of research that illuminates the issue of disproportionality in student discipline and examines the impact of suspension and expulsion on students, families, subgroups, and society. When students are suspended from school, opportunities for learning are lost, which prevent students from learning content needed for the roadmap to high-school graduation. This qualitative study sought to understand how teachers came to understand the theory of restorative justice and how they implement restorative practices in the classroom with their students. Their experiences are compared to the three pillars of restorative justice (addressing harm, obligations, and engagement) provided by research practitioner and restorative justice theorist Howard Zehr. To this end, this study presents findings from one neighborhood school who implement a restorative practice program, serving disenfranchised students with African American or Black students as the majority. Drawing on qualitative data collected through methods that include interviews conducted with seven educators, and document review, my findings provide critical perspectives of teachers, key restorative practices, challenges, and implementation infrastructure needed to produce and sustain systematic school-based restorative practice implementation to transform student discipline and learning communities.