5 ways restorative practices benefit girls of color

Restorative practices improve girls' connections to teachers and sense of safety
By: | May 12, 2021

Community circles and other restorative practices can boost health, wellbeing and academic achievement for girls of color, a new Georgetown University study has found.

Restorative practices and supportive settings help students overcome feelings of isolation and give girls a sense of empowerment to discuss challenges, says the researchers behind “Building Foundations for Health and Wellbeing: A Study of Restorative Practices and Girls of Color” by the Initiative on Gender Justice and Opportunity at Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty & Inequality.

“These findings show that many more schools can take positive steps to support the health and wellbeing of girls of color,” said the report’s lead author, Thalia González, senior scholar at the Initiative on Gender Justice and Opportunity.

“This is especially important now, after a year of unprecedented challenges for so many children and educators, which have disproportionately harmed communities of color,” González said.

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Researchers interviewed 67 Black and Latina girls in nine middle and high schools.

“I didn’t have a voice in the class and the teacher mostly called on the boys,” one of the girls told the researchers. “And when it came to circle it was like no, we all have the same voice, there’s no … dominant sex here, basically. And I feel like that empowered a lot of girls here.”

The study found that proactive restorative practices improve girls’:

  • Connections to teachers
  • Relationships with peers, and family
  • Sense of safety and positive school climate
  • Social-emotional skills
  • Mental health, resilience, and empowerment

The report recommends that schools:

  1. Use restorative practices to reconnect students returning to school after COVID closings.
  2. Use restorative practices to eliminate health and education inequities.
  3. Implement restorative practices across all grades.
  4. Restrict use of zero-tolerance and other punitive discipline practices.

The report also calls for further research into how educators and communities can use restorative practices as a public health intervention.

“We know that girls of color face higher rates of trauma, exclusionary discipline and detachment from school than their peers,” said co-author Rebecca Epstein, executive director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality.

“Restorative practices are a pathway to strengthen marginalized girls’ connections with teachers and peers, and receive the compassionate support they need to thrive,” Epstein said.