Restorative Justice

Transforming high schools is as much about culture and climate as it is about curriculum. Two things are clear — if schools are going to increase academic achievement, we must reduce conflict to keep students in the classroom and retain quality teachers.

Umoja’s Restorative Justice (RJ) model creates the conditions for both students and adults to successfully reach their academic goals by restoring conflicts and reducing disciplinary infractions. Through RJ, students learn critical social, emotional, and behavioral skills and teachers are better positioned to deliver high quality instruction.

“Instead of just getting suspended or getting punished, we work to figure out why this conflict is happening, which keeps students from getting in the same sort of issues. When students work out their issues, they don’t get in fights, they don’t get suspended, and they don’t miss school.”

Starnica Rodgers,
Manley student

 Umoja Peace Ambassadors Retreat


Restorative justice programs and practices have been shown in multiple schools and districts nationally to reduce suspensions and violence (Dignity in Schools, 2012).

Keeping students in school matters:

  • Suspensions contribute to chronic absences, poor academic performance and consequently greater chances of dropping out and becoming implicated in the juvenile justice system (Justice Center, 2014).
  • Even 1 suspension reduces a young person’s likelihood of graduation by 12% (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2016).
  • Young people who drop out of high school, many of whom have been on a path of suspensions prior to leaving school, are more than eight times as likely to be incarcerated as those who graduate (Advancement Project, 2010).
  • Cutting the national suspension rate in half would save taxpayers $5.5 billion (The Center for Civil Rights Remedies, 2016).

Through implementation of Umoja’s RJ model suspensions across our RJ partner schools decreased an average of 42%, which created an additional 15,834 instructional hours for Chicago students.


Umoja focuses on the school as a strategic arena for the prevention, intervention and interruption of community conflict and violence. Reducing suspensions and disciplinary infractions keeps students in school where we have the opportunity to teach skills, influence positive choices and prevent issues that may otherwise turn into a vicious cycle of harm and retaliation.

Umoja utilizes a whole school Restorative Justice model, which includes:

  • Strategic planning with Administrators and school leaders on restorative justice, discipline and behavior systems
  • A Peace Room which serves as a hub for restorative practices and interventions including: Peace Circles, Mediations, Restorative Chats & Re-entry Circles
  • A disciplinary intervention curriculum which teaches critical social-emotional & leadership skills
  • Professional development for teachers and school staff

Read the story of just one student's transformation due to RJ at his school.

Watch Documentaries produced by students during Community Builders
Read more about Umoja's RJ program and why it matters