…marginalized youth cannot be punished/suspended into becoming engaged.
Falconer Report, TDSB, 2008
When things go wrong in our schools, often the immediate response is to consequence the student who has made a poor choice. We know from research that punishment alone does not change behaviour and often makes matters worse. When students are only suspended for their actions, they often spend the suspension time becoming victims (“I got ratted out”, “I missed the school trip because of this”, “I’m falling behind in my school work”, etc.), building resentment and by the time they return, they are looking for opportunities to retaliate.
Firstly, we need to take a restorative approach to harm, regarding it as relationships that are broken between students, between adults and youth, between youth and their families and between school and community. When we only punish, we do not assist in rebuilding harmed relationships. Punishment further isolates and disengages students. If they did not feel connected to their school community before the suspension, they are even less likely to have a sense of belonging after the suspension.
Secondly, the root cause why a student has acted out needs to identified. It is most helpful for students to have an opportunity to unravel the events that brought about their reaction and then teach the skills and strategies necessary so they don’t repeat the same behaviour again.
The WRDSB Alternative to Suspension Program was developed in 2008 with both Academic and Non-academic components. The Non-academic component addresses both issues mentioned above. It creates the potential for a new beginning for the student who has time to reflect and process the events that lead up to the incident, understand what the impact was on others and determine how they might fix what has happened. The social and emotion skill development, based on Emotional Intelligence and Positive Psychology helps the student learn how to deal in a positive fashion with the same or similar situation in the future.
A resource document, developed in conjunction with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board is available from the Assistant (to) Superintendent of Learning Services. This document contains social and emotional skills units on Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Conflict Resolution, Anger Management, Communication and Resiliency Factors.