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Restorative Justice and the Discipline Gap: Exploring the Impact of Restorative Practices on Racially Disproportional School Discipline

Joseph, Andrea (2018) Restorative Justice and the Discipline Gap: Exploring the Impact of Restorative Practices on Racially Disproportional School Discipline. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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School suspensions and expulsions are frequently used throughout U.S. schools as a form of discipline or behavior modification. However, for the last four decades, students of color have been disproportionately excluded from school compared to their White peers. To address this disparity, districts across the nation are now utilizing relationship building interventions such as restorative practices to repair broken relationships in the school community. Schools using restorative practices are generally able to significantly reduce the total number of suspensions; however, racial disparities often remain. Guided by ecological systems theory and critical race theory, this mixed-methods study examined factors that contributed to the persistent discipline-gap at a school implementing restorative practices. Data are drawn from interviews, training observations, classroom observations, instrument data, and pre-post intervention discipline data. As demonstrated in the literature, findings demonstrate an overall reduction in school suspensions during the intervention year. However, the discipline gap remained leaving Black males 1.7 times more likely and Black females 1.3 times more likely to be suspended compared to all other students. Within gender, Black females had three times the suspension risk making the Black female discipline gap greater than the Black male discipline gap. A contributing factor to this racial disproportionality was the race-neutral implementation of the intervention. As a race-neutral intervention, it did not account for the structural and interpersonal factors that sustain racial disparities. Further, findings suggest that punitive discipline policies and variable quality of intervention delivery conflicted with the relationship building aims of restorative practices. In all, an array of social, structural and implementation barriers impacted the intended delivery of the intervention. Implications for intervention research, policy, and school social work practice are discussed.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Joseph, AndreaAnj40@pitt.eduAnj40
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGoodkind,
Committee MemberWallace,
Committee MemberHuguley,
Committee MemberAnne,
Committee MemberWoodson,
Date: 3 August 2018
Date Type: Submission
Defense Date: 19 April 2018
Approval Date: 6 August 2018
Submission Date: 3 August 2018
Access Restriction: 4 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 4 years.
Number of Pages: 224
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Social Work > Social Work
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: School Suspensions; Racially Disproportional School Suspensions; Critical Race Theory; School Social Work; Restorative Practices; Restorative Justice; Discipline Gap
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2018 18:13
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2022 05:15


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