Taking Restorative Justice to Schools

In the wake of more than a decade of disturbing headlines ranging from bullying to school massacres, author Jeannette Holtham now dedicates her time to teaching schools how to improve their school culture and reach our youth before their behaviors get out of control or turn to violence.

Her timely book Taking Restorative Justice to Schools: A Doorway to Discipline is the first comprehensive practical guide for schools that are ready to reduce discipline problems by as much as 60 to 85 percent. It provides an answer to zero tolerance policies that have unintentionally encouraged the overuse of suspension and expulsion which has led to widespread dropout rates—sending hundreds of thousands of our youth into their communities with insufficient education and job skills to complete in the workforce—a perfect storm for the school-to-prison pipeline. By contrast, the global explosion of restorative justice keeps kids in school, gets them to take responsibility for their behaviors, helps them to gain empathy for others, and provides them with a mutually respectful school environment where they can make better choices in the future.

As Ms. Holtham puts it, “Students don’t suddenly bring a knife or gun to school with an intention to harm their fellow students or the school staff. Educators can take advantage of early warning signs to get to core issues before they lead to violence. Her book provides powerful prevention and intervention tools in a simple, step-by-step model that complements a school’s discipline system to make schools safer, reduce teacher burnout, and recover vital teaching and learning time in classrooms.

Ms. Holtham is also the co-author of Ten Surefire Ways to Transform Troubled Youth and founding president of Youth Transformation Center, a Colorado non-profit organization dedicated to moving youth away from risky behaviors toward healthier, more successful lifestyles.


“Taking Restorative Justice to Schools” is a practical resource for those wanting to rethink their approach to wrongdoing and conflicts in schools and other contexts involving youth. In 80 pages and 6 easily-digested chapters it takes the reader through both the “why” and the “how.” Appendices provide short check lists and “cheat sheets” to aid in implementation. An excellent companion to “The Little Book of Restorative Discipline for Schools” by Amstutz & Mullet (and almost exactly the same size), it is a significant contribution to the growing literature on restorative processes in the educational field.


This is a practical guide from a practitioner. Ms. Holtham provides the philosophical foundations for restorative justice, describes the need for it in schools, the record of success and then a roadmap for implementation. She describes the required stakeholders, appropriate offenses and then offers a “how to” manual with sample scripts to conduct restorative justice conferences. If you are interested in reducing class disruptions, suspensions and expulsions while creating an educational community and culture of learning, this book tells you how to do it with restorative practices.

Pete L.

The Table of Contents immediately reveals a positive bias towards application which I appreciate. I was convinced that I could take this book and help any school institute a restorative justice program.

Early on, the author provides a rationale for implementing restorative justice (Punitive approaches erode community & fundamental issues unaddressed) and addresses the myth that RJ is a “touchy feely” approach. Having to face one’s victim is often far more challenging, accountable and ultimately transformative than taking a school suspension.

Overall Ms. Holtham’s book addresses formal restorative conferencing, circle processes that can be used in classrooms, and “boomerang” questions that can be turned into teachable moments.

The book is filled with ready to use scripts, templates, and role plays. As someone who played a role in establishing a successful restorative justice program at our school, I wish I had a resource like this three years ago.

Michael S.