Purpose: As the implementation of restorative justice in educational settings proliferates around the world, researchers and practitioners alike are trying to determine what factors influence implementation that furthers the creation of a just and equitable learning environment. This paper explores the important role that critical Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR)—a youth-driven method of research with values that align with restorative justice—can provide schools interested in implementing critical restorative justice. For restorative justice to challenge the structural inequalities of our social institutions, innovative approaches to implementation that radically transform power relations within the institutional and community contexts are needed. YPAR offers one possible tool for recodification of power relations in the school context.
Design/methodology/approach: This paper explores the current literature on the implementation of restorative justice in educational settings and the benefits of YPAR for students, school culture change initiatives, and social justice more broadly.
Findings: Implementing critical restorative justice in schools with the support of a YPAR project could provide all students—and especially students from marginalized communities—an opportunity to name and critique injustice, to have a voice in the implementation process, and to take action to shift the cultures within their schools.
Originality/value: There has been little discussion of the role students can play in the restorative justice implementation process to date. However, successful enactment of restorative justice may be possible by engaging youth in critical inquiry about the conditions of their schools and empowering them to imagine how a restorative culture can be cultivated.
Keywords: Restorative Justice; Youth Participatory Action Research; Education; Social Justice