Dictionary page with text "a suite of learned skills which, when implemented in a school or community environment, strengthen bonds between individuals and social connections 
within communities, and also reduce harm, conflict, and violence in and 
outside of school."

Restorative Practices aim to improve interpersonal and community relationships through a focus on maintaining, improving, and healing relationships, both as an ongoing process, and in immediate response to resolving conflicts.

When we put restorative practices into action in schools, the data behind shows improvements in culture, mental health, and discipline. Notably, discipline under restorative practices focuses on repairing rather than retribution or punishment.


Restorative Schools Maryland is dedicated to building the policy and funding necessary to implement research-based restorative practices (RP) in all public schools in Maryland. Restorative Practices fills a crucial school climate gap in the 2021 Blueprint for Maryland’s Future – the most comprehensive, well-funded, and systemic education change legislation in the United States. Many of Restorative Schools Maryland’s Steering Committee members were pivotal partners in the engine behind the passage of that ground-breaking legislation!

Read on to better visualize the 5 “Building Blocks” of Restorative Schools Maryland


BUILDING BLOCK 1: Problem Solving

Imagine a school in which a sense of tension can be dispelled by teachers starting their classes two or three days a week with a few minutes of thoughtful, whole-class discussion. These discussions allow for new perspectives among students to emerge and make new relationships possible. This teaches our students the tools for prosocial behavior and conflict resolution to reduce the need for administrative punishments

BUILDING BLOCK 2: Student Voice

Imagine a school in which the school principal meets weekly with a diverse group of students (half of whom are replaced each quarter with new students) to discuss questions of the students’ choosing with the students reporting to the student body via the most effective media tools.  


Imagine a school in which 200 middle schoolers gather every Friday morning in a circle on the gym floor and spend an hour that includes a presentation by and discussion of a community (inside or outside the school) issue. This is followed by a period in which the students and staff present are invited to publicly express gratitude or apologies to other specific students and staff. These community-centered circles are especially potent in the wake of a COVID-19 pandemic which has led to unprecedented mental health burdens and spikes in youth violence. Restorative practices help to safeguard schools from ongoing and future crises.

BUILDING BLOCK 4: Teacher Respect

Imagine a school in which classroom management and office referrals are not important issues because the principal has led a change in school culture in which strategies between and among teachers and students are characterized by positive relationships.

BUILDING BLOCK 5: Accountability

Imagine a school in which a student feels disrespected by another student or group of students, but instead of lashing back, they go to a teacher or the principal and asks for a “circle” with the other student(s) to find a solution to the problem.




How Restorative Practices Fits Into the Blueprint

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future – the most comprehensive education legislation in the U. S. in the last fifty years – became law right here in Maryland in 2021.

As good as it is, it is not perfect. One of its gaps is the absence of explicit, funded attention to school culture/climate.  School culture is so important because it directly influences the implementation of every Blueprint element.

A school needs to be safe. It needs to be a place that students and school staff really look forward to coming to every day. A school needs to have positive energy and to be a place where people respect one another and everyone is heard.

Schools also need to be places where parents want to send their children because they know they will learn and be well cared for during the day . Restorative Practices are an essential strategy to transform our schools into Restorative Schools.

Some of the Improvements Created by Restorative Schools

  1. Student Achievement 
  2. Student and Staff Attendance
  3. Teacher Retention
  4. Greater equity in how low-income students, students of color, English Language Learners and students with disabilities are treated
  5. Disrupt the school to prison pipeline
  6. Harmful student referrals into the juvenile justice system for non-criminal infractions
  7. Mental health of students & staff
  8. Overall school safety and feelings of well being


What do you mean by “Restorative Practices?”
  • Restorative Practices represent a whole-school strategy to create a healthy school culture based on trust, respect, inclusion and the engagement of all with a stake in a school. It is a strategy not a project or program. It involves students, teachers, administrators, parents and the wider community.
  • Restorative Practices define the way people listen to each other, talk with each other and behave toward one another.
  • Restorative Practices become a way of life. It is based on developing positive relationships among all those interested in the success of a child, school, family and community.
What do “Restorative Practices” look like in schools?

Restorative Practices in schools takes the form of students, teachers, administrators, other staff, and parents addressing unacceptable behavior through constructive conversation built on trust and respect. It also frequently goes beyond immediate issues of bad behavior. It can involve forming a circle to hold discussions in response to an open-ended question prompt; a group problem that needs resolving; a significant current event; and even for purposes of deepening instructional content(see the summary video).

A “talking piece” is passed from person to person, which allows each participant to “have a voice” and share their perspectives in an orderly and inclusive manner(see example here). This provides educators and students with opportunities to participate in restorative circles regularly has been shown to develop critical thinking and social/emotional skills, to help resolve problems before they escalate, to create a sense of belonging, safety, and community among students and teachers, and to set the stage for meaningful teaching and learning.

Among other significant findings, a 2020 study on RP in Baltimore City Public Schools found that suspensions were reduced by 44% after just one year of RP implementation in fourteen schools (see study here).  

Why will Restorative Practices work?

Too often, schools’ main approaches to discipline (expulsion, suspension, office referral, and school-based arrests) push students out of a supportive school environment, focus on punishment, and fail to address the underlying issues that cause poor behavior. Moreover, such harmful discipline measures fall disproportionately on students of color and children with disabilities.

Restorative Practices serve as an alternative to exclusionary discipline – a method that increases social bonds in schools and creates a safe space for students, teachers, and staff to process emotions, address conflicts, and screen for unmet mental health needs. This practice has been proven to reduce suspensions, expulsions, and school-based arrests drastically.

What is a “Restorative Circle?”
  • The “Restorative Circle” is a primary tool of Restorative Practices. Sometimes it is an engagement strategy involving a group addressing common questions as participants listen to one another. Sometimes it is a strategy to achieve conflict resolution. In those circumstances, the people in conflict gather with a neutral party, in a circle, and address three questions: what happened, what was the effect on each person and what must we do to address the issue?
What problems are Restorative Practices designed to address?
  • Poor academic Achievement
  • School violence and bullying.
  • Mental health needs of students & staff.
  • The School-to-Prison pipeline.
  • Negative school culture. Punitive and exclusionary discipline practices such as expulsion, suspension and office referrals of students in general and disproportionate use of them in particular
  • Teacher turn over – classroom management; working conditions; teacher- parent relationships; teacher-administrator relationships
  • Inequity
What is the goal of Restorative Schools Maryland?
  • The goal of Restorative Schools Maryland is to provide funding and other support to create over time a quality Restorative Practices culture in each school in the state through changes in state policy and funding.
What is Restorative Schools Maryland’s Organizing Strategy?

Restorative Schools Maryland aims to educate state leaders about the urgent need to change the climate in Maryland schools, resulting in funding and policy support to create, over time, a quality Restorative Practices culture in each school in the state.

Restorative Schools Maryland’s organizing approach centers on creating Circles of 10– teams of ten volunteers in Baltimore City and every county. 

These Circles provide information about the benefits of using RP in schools. They also engage their state legislators on the importance of expanding its implementation to all of Maryland’s public schools. 

Circle Leaders will meet monthly with their volunteer teams to take action and provide continuous updates on the progress and needs of the initiative. 

This same process was used by Strong Schools Maryland to successfully pass the above-mentioned Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. Our effort is a continuation of this work, and Strong Schools’ leaders serve on our steering committee.

What does the state of Maryland need to provide?
  • Establish that Restorative Practices is an integral part of each school in the state.
  • A full-time state-supported Restorative Practices coach in each school.
  • Appropriate state-supported training for all current staff and all new staff.
  • Appropriate annual continuing education, review, and retraining.
  • Establish the effectiveness of a Restorative School as a metric to be tracked by the Accountability and Implementation Board.
  • Monitoring/evaluation of infrastructure
How can I get involved?

The core advocacy strategy is Circles of Ten. You can be a Circle Leader. You can be a Circle member. Being a Leader requires no more than two hours per month. The Circle member would need to commit no more than one hour per month. Click here to sign up.

Who is funding Restorative Schools Maryland?

We are grateful to the Open Society Foundations, the Silber Foundation, and the Wolman Fund for providing seed funding to Restorative Schools Maryland and the Fund for Educational Excellence for serving as our fiscal sponsor.

Who is the Restorative Schools Steering Committee?
Logan Endow

Logan Endow, Executive Director of Restorative Schools Maryland;

David Hornbeck

David Hornbeck, Chair, Founder, Strong Schools Maryland; Former Maryland State Superintendent of Schools, Former Superintendent, School District of Philadelphia;

Shamoyia Gardiner

Shamoyia Gardiner, Executive Director, Strong Schools Maryland

Keith Hickman

Keith Hickman, Executive Director, International Institute for Restorative Practices;

Matt Hornbeck

Matthew Hornbeck, Principal, 20 years at Hampstead Elementary-Middle School, an 800 student Restorative School in Baltimore City

Shantay McKinily

Shantay McKinily, Director of the Positive Schools Center at University of Maryland

Jenny Zito

Jenny Zito, Co-chair, Front Door Committee, Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform.

For further information, contact David Hornbeck at: Restorative Schools Maryland, dhornbeck1@gmail.com.

Multimedia Resources on Restorative Practices

Below, you’ll find links to videos, blog posts, and news articles that will help to familiarize you further with the implementation and outcomes of Restorative Practices.

➡️ “Restorative Practices in Brief,” a position paper by David Hornbeck (.pdf) READ IT HERE

➡️ WBAL TV11 Story Restorative practices work to tap into students’ emotional intelligence early on” WATCH HERE (or press the “play” button below)

“Restorative practices work to tap into students’ emotional intelligence early on” via WBAL-TV 11 Baltimore

➡️ Gates Foundation blog post interviewing 5 Maryland school leaders about their experiences with Restorative Practices. READ HERE

➡️ Matthew Hornbeck, principal of Hampstead Hill Academy (HHA) a public school in Baltimore City, joined the Juvenile Justice sub-committee of the Front Door committee to describe Restorative Practice’s role in making HHA one of the top performing schools in the state. WATCH BELOW 

➡️ CBS interview with Karen Webber from the Open Society Institute addressing Restorative Practices at the system level but also her experience as a young teacher in using Restorative Practices (Watch here or via Twitter)

➡️ Introductory material (watch the video) from the International Institute for Restorative Practices. This organization sponsored the World Conference that Christopher Providence, Holly Willis and David Hornbeck attended in January. LEARN MORE HERE