Polly K. Long



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Across the nation, the education system is responding to student misbehavior with zero tolerance policies that parallel the punitive practices found in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Zero tolerance policies have contributed to the “discipline gap,” wherein schools punish racial and ethnic minorities more often and more severely than they punish whites. One alternative to punitive punishment is restorative justice, which aims to foster respect, responsibility, and empathy in members of school communities. This project evaluates the relationship between restorative justice and out-of-school suspension rates in an urban school district. It also serves as one of the few studies that evaluate the effect of restorative practices on the discipline gap. The results validate previous research findings, as restorative justice is related to reductions in out-of-school suspension rates. Further, the results reveal a promising alternative to the punitive practices that plague the education system, as restorative justice is related to reductions in the size of the discipline gap.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Elana Bernstein, Susan C Davies, Jamie Longazel

Primary Advisor's Department

Counselor Education and Human Services


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Diminishing the Discipline Gap: Restorative Justice as a Promising Alternative in One Urban School