Issue Brief: Increasing School Connectedness for Girls: Restorative Justice as a Health Equity Resource
Schools can play an essential role in ending health inequities. But not all students experience schools in the same ways. Given the intersectional factors of race, gender, sexual identity, and poverty in their lives, marginalized girls are at a particularly high risk of negative outcomes in schools, including punitive and exclusionary discipline, school pushout, and contact with law enforcement and the juvenile justice system.
They also face high rates of trauma, which further elevates their chance of decreased school engagement even in the absence of other factors. Taken cumulatively, the experience of marginalized girls makes them uniquely vulnerable to lower levels of educational attainment, leading to lifelong negative health effects.
School connectedness, defined as students’ belief that adults in their school care about their learning and about them as individuals, results in lower rates of health-risk behaviors and improved academic performance.
Over the last ten years, evidence has increasingly shown that in addition to reducing discipline disparities, restorative justice (RJ) has also been shown to promote positive student and teacher relationships and peer-to-peer relationships, healthier school climates, increased feelings of self-efficacy, improved academic performance, and social and emotional skill development. Each of these outcomes fosters school connectedness, which ultimately advances health equity for students.