Public school board aims to reduce suspensions
LONDON, ONT. -- The Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) is trying to cut back on handing out suspensions as a disciplinary measure.
The longstanding practice is falling out of favour in many corners and that includes with many students themselves, who say time-outs from school just don’t work.
“It’s definitely the easier route to suspend students,” said London grade 12 student Jaden Devos. “I believe that a lot of suspensions come from the same cause, whether it be behaviour at home, which sounds cliche but it’s definitely true.”
He added that he believes it would be more productive to address the cause before handing down the punishment.
Grade 11 student Hayden Wells-Coughlin, also from London, said a suspension should be a last resort.
“I think that there definitely should be alternatives. Steps should be taken before suspensions happen... It doesn’t really do anything. They just get time off to do anything they want.”
As it turns out, both the Ministry of Education and the public school board seem to agree. The board is actively trying to reduce the rate of suspensions, which is now higher than the provincial average.
In the 2017/18 school year TVDSB handed out 4,033 suspensions for a suspension rate of 4.96 per cent. That compares with the provincial suspension rate of 2.85 per cent.
Director of Education Mark Fisher told CTV News that when he assumed his role last year, one of his main goals was to find better ways of dealing with student conflict and behavioural issues.
“How do you develop better relationships between the students and the adults in the building? How do you understand what the behaviour is telling us, so that we don’t just punish, but we actually try to look at the root of what’s going on?”
The board is currently training more than 1,000 educators in so-called restorative practices.
“If a kid keeps getting suspended over and over again, their behaviour doesn’t actually change,” says Fisher. “They’re more likely to disengage, and if they disengage they’re less likely to be employable, they get involved with criminal justice. There’s all kinds of negative consequences for the student suspension.”
Fisher says implementing the new approach will take 18 months, wrapping up at the end of the next school year.