Anita Wadhwa’s Journey in Restorative Justice: Disrupting the School to Prison Pipeline

In a recent conference presentation, Anita Wadhwa, a native Texan and former restorative justice coordinator at YES Prep Northbrook High School, shared her inspiring journey in implementing restorative justice practices in urban schools. Based on her research as a doctoral student at Harvard, Wadhwa authored the book “Restorative Justice in Urban Schools: Disrupting the School to Prison Pipeline” and contributed to the anthology “Colorizing Restorative Justice.”

Wadhwa’s dedication to restorative justice led her to co-found Restorative Empowerment (REY), an organization that hires former students to train Houston-based organizations in restorative practices. Over the past eight years, she has developed a youth-led restorative justice model in Houston, empowering young leaders and fostering positive change within their communities.

Although Wadhwa recently stepped down from her role as the RJ coordinator at YES Prep Northbrook High School, she continues to observe the progress of the program as a part-time virtual teacher. Remarkably, the youth involved in the program have taken the initiative to approach the school’s principal with demands, including a request to facilitate a professional development session. While Wadhwa is not directly involved in this upcoming session, her apprenticeship with these young leaders gives her confidence that their work will continue to thrive.

Additionally, Wadhwa volunteers her time by inviting community members, such as local nonviolent communication (NVC) practitioners and individuals engaged in justice work, to virtually join the class. She also connects her students with RJ experts and facilitates Zoom circles with youth nationwide, creating a sense of community and fostering collaboration in the broader restorative justice movement.

Anita Wadhwa’s dedication to restorative justice and her commitment to empowering youth leaders is truly commendable. Through her work, she has made significant strides in disrupting the school to prison pipeline and creating a more inclusive and equitable educational environment. Her story serves as an inspiration for educators and advocates seeking to implement restorative justice practices in their own communities.