Changing Schools/Changing Lives

Students suspended or expelled are three times more likely to be in contact with the juvenile justice system the following year
— Breaking School Rules

AUJ's school programs help eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline by reducing school incidents and thereby reducing suspensions and expulsions.

Photo by Juan Ramos

Photo by Juan Ramos

Richmond Model Restorative Justice

The school program AUJ employs, called Richmond Model Restorative Justice (RMRJ), is designed to catalyze culture change in schools, shifting from an institutional structure that is reliant on punishment to achieve compliance to an inclusive system in which connection becomes the “force” that holds community together. Connected communities naturally help and support one another and productively manage conflicts.

RMRJ fosters social safety and well-being in schools by cultivating healthy relationships, strengthening community through shared values, and recognizing our shared humanity. Trauma awareness and self-care are addressed directly through increased stability and safety. Social emotional learning is supported as positive values are modeled, experienced and lived. 


AUJ’s vision is a world where this type of school culture is the norm.


AUJ’s First School Program

Unitive Education creators, Sylvia Clute and Donna Chewning, together implemented a public school pilot Restorative Justice program at a high school in Virginia in 2011-2013, with the assistance of Jim Mustin, a long-time leader in Restorative Justice. Janie Walker, who now serves on the AUJ Board of Directors, served as the program’s Community Liaison. At that time, AUJ was known as Restorative Youth Services of Virginia but changed its name in 2014 to align with an evolving vision for a unitive world.

For this program, Clute and Chewning conducted a total of 117 Restorative Justice Circles and trained approximately 40 adults and many students in Restorative Justice processes. Also included in the program were Classroom Circles, a mentoring program, a Restorative Justice class, and other activities with the students.

While the data does not indicate the cause, from 2006 to the most recent statistics available from the Virginia Deptartment of Education:

  • The high school had the lowest number of incidents related to behavior the second and final year of the AUJ program.

  • The total number of incidents related to behavior the year before the program began was 583, and the number dropped to 150 the second year the AUJ program was in the high school.

  • There were 406 Individual Student Offenders in 2010-2011 before the program, and that number was down to 185, fewer than half as many, in 2012-2013.