Restoring Community

Whole-School Change Through Restorative Practices

The IIRP’s SaferSanerSchools™ program provides a comprehensive two-year implementation model that is transforming school climate in districts across the United States.

The SaferSanerSchools™ program is now included in some of the nation’s largest research studies of restorative practices in schools. Many benefits of the program begin soon after implementation begins, including:

  • Increasing safety through reductions in misbehavior, violence and bullying.
  • Enhancing social and emotional learning for students, staff and parents.
  • Reducing student suspensions, expulsions and absenteeism.
  • Reducing teacher absenteeism.
  • Optimizing instructional time, improving teaching and learning environments.
  • Repairing relationships and improve attitudes among students, staff and parents.
  • Empowering leaders to emerge through pedagogy, practice and proficiency.

When implemented with fidelity, SaferSanerSchools™ transforms socially toxic environments into socially aware communities by engaging students to take responsibility for making the school safer and saner.

Many districts that implement the program see tremendous improvements in their school climate within the first two years of implementation. Others continue to sustain the program in their schools with great results.

Program Description

Since 1999 the IIRP Continuing Education Division has helped even the most challenging schools improve their teaching and learning environment through "restorative practices," a proactive approach to whole-school climate change based on communication and responsibility. As the country’s educational policies have shifted away from "Zero Tolerance," the IIRP went to work developing a high fidelity implementation model that involves the whole school in building a positive school climate through restorative practices.

The IIRP’s “six-periods” approach is led by experienced instructors. It provides a cost-effective way to achieve lasting change that results in healthier relationships between students, staff and parents while taking a social discipline approach to reducing suspensions and expulsions.

Program Timeline

(Click period name to view description)

First Period: Ramp Up and Readiness

Our work starts with an aggressive ramp-up period six to nine months prior to program launch. The aim is to develop capacity for district and school leaders to implement the SaferSanerSchools™ program with fidelity. School leadership and staff prepare for a successful launch, which includes school climate assessment, orientation, planning, messaging and leadership training.

  • Incorporate Restorative Language in Discipline Policies
  • Build a Restorative Leadership Team (RLT)
  • Preview School Climate Assessment Data
  • Align District and School Vision to Strategic Plan
  • Orient District and School Leaders to Program
  • Schedule Logistics and Operations
  • Meet IIRP Instructor/Coach
Second Period: Restorative Leadership Team Support

The Restorative Leadership Team (RLT) is typically a group of 12 school leaders designated and led by the principal to serve as the restorative practices coordination team. The team is comprised of a cross-sector of staff in the building, such as assistant principals, SLT representatives, multidisciplinary staff, school climate members, academic chairs, teachers and counselors and can include student and parent representatives.

  • Virtual Support
  • Site-Based Coaching
  • Observation and Reflection
  • Data Driven Planning
  • Modeling and Restorative Problem-Solving
  • Program Coordination and Support
Third Period: Training and Facilitation

Professional development trainings are modules in a larger framework that build toward a comprehensive understanding of restorative practices. IIRP instructors provide staff with practical concepts and skills that can be used immediately and provide the foundation for diving deeper on the 11 “Essential Elements.”

  • 2-Day Restorative Leadership Development: Authority with Grace
  • 2-Day Restorative Responses to Adversity and Trauma
  • Introduction to Restorative Practices
  • Using Circles Effectively
  • 2-Day Facilitating Restorative Conferences
  • IIRP Training of Trainers
Fourth Period: Implementation and Practice

Throughout the implementation process, all staff will participate in Professional Learning Groups (PLGs), which consist of approximately 8-12 staff members. PLGs are participatory learning groups that encourage staff to take active responsibility for implementing and developing high levels of proficiency in the 11 “Essential Elements.” The IIRP Instructor/Coach will facilitate an “Implementation Start-Up” session with all staff at program outset to introduce staff to the PLG process and ensure they can facilitate their own ongoing meetings. The IIRP will also provide meeting protocols, educational resources and online tools to assist these groups in their ongoing learning and development.

  • PLG Startup Session
  • IIRP Educational Resources
  • PLG Meeting Planners and Scripts
  • Learning Activities
  • Norms and Basic Concepts Template
  • Access to Online Video Library
Fifth Period: Ongoing Monitoring

Achieving lasting school climate change starts with the collection and assessment of school-based data, assessment surveys, anecdotal data and observations. At the outset, the IIRP offers a school climate readiness assessment and, as one measure of proficiency, provides staff self-assessment surveys that cover all of the 11 “Essential Elements.” These surveys ask simple online reflective questions related to behaviors and practices associated with each element. Importantly, IIRP instructors use data throughout program implementation to support informed decision making. Tools include:

  • School Climate Reporting
  • Staff and Student Self-Assessments Measuring Proficiency of Elements
  • Process and Frequency Evaluation
  • Monthly and Annual Reflection
  • Data Reports and Targeted Support


Sixth Period: Sustainability and Transition

The IIRP believes that sustainability and capacity go hand-in-hand. We offer a wide variety of support services and educational opportunities to maintain, extend and deepen restorative practices implementation after the initial two-year program ends. The end goal is to institutionalize and embed restorative practices as part of school staff’s vocabulary and daily life and pedagogy.

  • Emerging and Distributive Leadership Recognition and Support
  • Sustainability Planning and Scaling (beyond the school)
  • Capacity Building (Licensed trainers - TOT)
  • Continuing Education and Ongoing Learning Through Conferences and Symposia

Highlighted Resources

Improving School Climate: Evidence from Schools Implementing Restorative Practices

Fix School Discipline Educator Toolkit and Community Toolkit

For additional information on evidence of effectiveness, reports and resources, visit the School Resources Page


In this 9-minute video, students, teachers and administrators from West Philadelphia High School explain the impact of restorative practices implementation. SaferSanerSchools™ Instructor Lee Rush talks about how restorative practices and bullying prevention may work together.

Beyond Zero Tolerance documents the implementation of restorative practices in several schools in the U.S.A., the Netherlands, and Hull, England. The full movie is available for purchase. Voice of America looks at the impact of the SaferSanerSchools™ program at a school in Baltimore, Maryland.

SaferSanerSchools™ was launched in San Francisco Unified in a number of pilot schools after which the IIRP trained trainers who have continued to roll out restorative practices across the district. (Video by Mark Wieser of Treehouse Digital Video for SFUSD.) Peel School District in Ontario, Canada, demonstrates how restorative practices can be used as an integral part of teaching and learning.