Thalia Gonzalez and Rebecca Epstein,
Critical Race Feminism, Health, and Restorative Practices in Schools: Centering the Experiences of Black and Latina Girls, 29
Mich. J. Gender & L.
Available at: https://repository.uclawsf.edu/faculty_scholarship/1969
Restorative practices (RP) in K-12 schools in the United States have grown exponentially since the early 1990s. Developing against a backdrop of systemic racism, RP has become embedded in educa- tion practice and policy to counteract the harmful and persistent patterns of disparities in school discipline experienced by students of color. Within this legal, social, and political context, the em- pirical evidence that has been gathered on school-based restora- tive justice has framed and named RP as a behavioral interven- tion aimed at reducing discipline incidents—that is, an “alternative” to punitive and exclusionary practices. While this view of RP is central to dismantling discriminatory systems, we argue it reflects an unnecessarily limited understanding of its po- tential and has generated unintended consequences in the field of RP research. First, the reactive RP model of analysis focuses more exclusively on behavioral change, rather than systemic improve- ment, to address discipline disparities. Second, RP research has insufficiently examined the potential role of RP in achieving health justice. Third, RP research too rarely engages in intersec- tional analyses that critically examine gendered racism. This study is intended as a course correction. Building on the work of legal scholars, public health researchers, sociologists, restorative justice practitioners, and our own prior work, this original study is the first to examine non-disciplinary RP through a critical race feminist lens, and—just as importantly—a public health praxis. Our findings reveal that the interplay between RP and adoles- cent health, race, and gender can no longer be overlooked. Proac- tive non-disciplinary RP was found to promote supportive school environments that enhance five key protective health factors for Black and Latina girls. Additionally, results indicate that RP improved the mental health and wellbeing of Black and Latina girls, building fundamental resilience skills that can help overcome the complex array of social structures that serve to disempower and disenfranchise girls and harm their educational and health outcomes.
Michigan Journal of Gender and Law