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Intention Room

Intention Not Detention

As a restorative justice-centered alternative to in-school suspension, the Intention Room™ delivers an effective strategy for preventing long-term out-of-school suspension, truancy, violence, mental health issues, and offers the potential to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.


A restorative approach to school discipline

Punitive discipline measures like detention and suspension result in decreased self-esteem, decreased motivation and lower graduation rates. These forms of discipline also enforce systematic inequalities and are disproportionately used against students of color.

The concept of the Intention Room emerged in 2017 in Washington, DC through One Common Unity educators’ frustration at the severe lack of healing and restorative practices for students. Shortly after, the city enacted the Student Fair Access to School Act, legislation that limits the amount of time that students can be suspended. Now educators are grappling with how to maintain discipline without the threat of extended suspension.

Through the Intention Room alternative, students can re-activate their joy of learning and take concrete steps to becoming their best selves. This starts with an intentional, trauma-informed alternative to punitive discipline; one that builds students’ self-esteem, sense of agency, and empowers them to lead the lives they are capable of.

Inside an Intention Room

This interview with former Fly By Light Facilitator, Manny Salazar, takes you inside the Intention Room at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Washington, DC.


OCU facilitators lead Intention Rooms in schools that thrive with the combination of the following elements:

Artistic Expression: Students use art and music to process their experiences and emotions, including working through a conflict using creative expression, processing a situation with a poem or song, or making a visual representation of how they are feeling.

Conflict Resolution: Facilitators may also lead mediation activities and offer trainings to enable students to de-escalate conflicts between individuals or groups of students.

Mindfulness: Students practice various mindful exercises, including guided meditation, breathing exercises, aromatherapy, yoga and stress-reduction activities.

Restorative Justice Circles: During restorative circles, students analyze the ways their actions did or did not serve their goals, reflect on their innate ability to manage their own behaviors, and explore how they would approach similar situations in the future.

Social Emotional Literacy: Students have space to identify and articulate their own emotions as well as recognize the emotional experiences and needs of others. Through activities and discussions, students gain tools of self-awareness, relationship skills, self-management, social awareness, and responsible decision-making.

Stories of Impact

STORY #19: OCU’s Intention Room®

September 12, 2021

Our students are returning to school after an extremely challenging year, one in which many have grappled with extreme stress and trauma. More than ever, we need to support youth, not punish them, when they are faced with difficulty.

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STORY #11: Miss Intention

February 2, 2021

Miss Intention is a powerful music video shining a light on the injustices many students—particularly Black girls—face inside school systems that use punitive discipline measures like detention and suspension. Miss Intention poses the question to educators: “When she’s crying out for attention, your response is detention. What if we stop to listen for a minute with intention?”…

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September 13, 2019

One Common Unity is proud to launch a new campaign, Intention Not Detention™, to focus on providing effective alternatives to traditional school discipline measures like suspension and detention.

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