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A restorative justice approach to bullying in schools

Media Release

11 March 2002

11 March 2002

In a report released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology, it was found that restorative justice is an effective response to bullying and victimization.

Over the past decade, people have started to realise how destructive bullying can be. "Bullying is a problem not just for the victim, but also the perpetrator, school, family, friends and the community as a whole, as bullying is a risk factor associated with anti-social behaviour and criminality", said Dr Adam Graycar, Director of the AIC. "This paper reports on a restorative justice program which ran in a primary school in the ACT, but whose lessons have a wider application", he said.

Restorative justice is a form of conflict resolution. The approach can be used to integrate individuals back into the community through the process of reintegrative shaming. Supported by members of the community who are closest to the individuals, the aim is to give support, while not condoning negative behaviour.

The Responsible Citizenship Program (RCP) is aimed at students to give them the skills to maintain healthy relationships. Children are able to express their views throughout the program in a fun and safe environment. Shame management is integrated into the program through giving the children skills to deal with conflict. The program works on a set of core principals - respect, consideration, and participation.

Assessment of the program showed that the students feeling of safety had increased, as had their adaptive use of shame management skills. Their use of maladaptive shame management skills decreased. All other parties involved with the program also found it to be a positive experience.

The report found that punishment can be very view narrowing whereas restorative justice concepts can lead to greater involvement of the community in the student's life, and hence, with the student in community life. "Emphasis on behavioural education rather than control goes a long way to achieving behavioural compliance".