Restorative Practices in Baltimore City Public Schools

The Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners and the Chief Executive Officer of Baltimore City Public Schools System (BCPSS), Dr. Sonja Santelises, have pledged to make BCPSS a restorative practices district. City Schools entered into a partnership with Open Society Institute-Baltimore with the ambitious goal of creating a restorative practices district over a three-to-five year period in which all offices, schools, and programs are trained in and use restorative practices in their daily work. OSI-Baltimore’s commitment to Restorative Practices dates back to 2006, when OSI made a series of grants to Baltimore Curriculum Project and Community Conferencing Center (founded by OSI-Baltimore Community Fellow Lauren Abramson), among others.

Research has shown that restorative practices led to drops in suspensions, more positive school and work climates, and increased levels of trust, empathy, and respect among stakeholders. Restorative practices are already in place in a handful of Baltimore City schools, with great results.  The video below, created by OSI-Baltimore grantee, Wide Angle Youth Media, explains what restorative practices are and how they are used as a way to resolve conflict and build positive relationships.

Find video here:

Review the following materials for more information on restorative practices and the roll out in Baltimore City Public Schools.

Guiding Documents:

Baltimore City Schools Restorative Practices Report: A guiding document for Baltimore City Schools’ implementation of restorative practices which includes a research review done by the Johns Hopkins Center for Education Policy, feedback from nearly 400 stakeholders and a robust list of recommendations for implementation. This report also contains documents in the appendix to help other districts replicate this process.

Restorative Practices Report Summary: A two-page summary handout of the restorative practices report.

Implementation and Resource Guide: A guide created by Baltimore City Schools which provides certified restorative practice trainers and other service providers a set of resources that will aid in the implementation of school-based restorative practices. The guide also includes Baltimore City Schools’ Restorative Practices Assessment tool.

Restorative Justice Implementation Guide: A Whole School Approach: a guide out of Oakland Unified School District, designed for a restorative practices facilitator to support their school in creating an implementation plan to introduce restorative practices to a school, school-wide.

Restorative Justice Partnership Resource Page: The Restorative Justice Partnership is a coalition of racial justice, education, labor, and community groups working to ensure widespread and high-quality implementation of restorative justice practices in Denver and across the country. Its resource page offers an implementation guide, frequently asked questions, and a number of useful webinars.

Classroom Resources:

Restorative Practices Lesson Plan Guide: A guide created by Baltimore City restorative practices teachers who partnered with OSI-Baltimore. It consists of a series of sample lesson plans, activities, supplemental materials, and circle starters that have been designed to compliment restorative practices training and to assist teachers in easily integrating restorative circles into their classroom teaching.

Restorative Practices Book List: A curated list of high-interest books for teachers to use in their classrooms to provoke circle discussion and analysis.

Restorative Practices Video List: A curated list of high-interest videos for teachers to use in their classrooms to provoke circle discussion and analysis.

Teaching Restorative Practices with Classroom Circles, San Francisco Unified School District: A resource out of the San Francisco Unified School District that describes how to hold restorative circles in classrooms. It contains step-by-step instructions for circles that build community and how to teach restorative concepts and skills to students.

Video Library:

Restorative Practices Video Guide – A guide containing videos to facilitate teachers rolling out restorative practices in their classrooms.

Baltimore City Schools Restorative Circle Videos: Videos created by our grantee, Teachers Democracy Project, which document various types of circles used in Baltimore City Schools. These include instructional circles, community building circles, ESOL circles, check-in circles, and school-wide restorative practices.

8th Grade Instructional Circle

Kindergarten Circle

3rd Grade Community Building Circle

Elementary School ESOL Circle


Middle School Assembly Circle


Additional Video and Text Resources:

Please also visit our grantees and partners to find additional information

Positive Schools Center

Community Mediation Center

Restorative Response Baltimore

International Institute for Restorative Practices

Holistic Life Foundation

Baltimore Curriculum Project

Teacher’s Democracy Project

Wide Angle Youth Media


About OSI Baltimore

Open Society Institute – Baltimore is a public charity and the sole field office of the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs. We focus on the root causes of three intertwined problems in our city and state: drug addiction, an over-reliance on incarceration, and obstacles that impede youth in succeeding inside and out of the classroom. We believe that discussion and debate are critical to making positive, lasting changes. This site is a testing ground where ideas can be considered and discussion can be fostered.