The Effects of a Restorative Practice Program on Discipline Referrals, Discipline, Absences, and Teacher Perspective in a Title I Middle School in East Tennessee
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The purpose of this exploratory mixed-methods study was to investigate restorative practice initiatives in a Title I middle school in East Tennessee. Quantitative analysis was performed to look for significant differences between in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspension, alternative school, discipline referrals, and absenteeism before and after implementation of the program. Qualitatively, focus groups were conducted with teachers both before and after implementation of the program to gather perceptions of the program’s effectiveness on student behavior and school culture as a whole. The quantitative data showed there was no significant difference in discipline referrals, out-of-school suspensions, absenteeism, and chronic absenteeism in fall 2018 and fall 2019. The number of in-school suspensions, combined suspensions (in-school and out-of-school), and alternative school referrals were significantly less in fall 2018 than fall 2019. The qualitative data found positive results from the focus group of educators with the implementation of this restorative practice program. The focus group reported students felt that trust and fairness played an important role towards their satisfaction with the restorative practice program. Also, the focus group reported the students developed good listening and communication skills and they felt a sense of empowerment to be a part of the initial restorative practice process. Based on the results of this study, further exploration of scheduling circle sessions, developing professional training for all teachers, and a longer period of time with the restorative practice program are needed to provide the data to see the success of this program.