Journal of Public Management & Social Policy


The critical role of education in making the United States a more equitable nation underscores the importance of eliminating the persistent academic achievement gap between students of color and White students. A school culture that fosters trusting relationships can play a key role in reducing this gap. This importance of trusting relationships at the core of school culture has, however, not always been recognized nor prioritized in policies and actions. Restorative justice, a philosophy based on repairing harm and creating a sense of belonging in a community, brings the discussion of trusting relationships into the public forum. This paper discusses how restorative practices are being used in a series of town halls for high school students in a central Oregon school district to build trusting relationships for students of color and to give them the tools to create systemic change in their schools around race and ethnicity. The paper adds to the relatively small, albeit growing, body of research on the relationship between the use of restorative practices and increased school engagement among students of color who are most vulnerable to school failure. Given the significant role of educational institutions as engines driving fairness and social justice, the paper also contributes to the literature on social equity, the fourth pillar of Public Administration.



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