St. John's school embraces restorative justice
Detentions did little to improve student behaviour
Posted: Jan 2, 2013 9:47 AM NT
Last Updated: Jan 2, 2013 1:25 PM NT
An independent school in St. John's is embracing an alternative approach to discipline, as part of a movement that requires students to see how their actions can hurt others.Principal Greg O'Leary says St. Bon's has dramatically improved problems with tardiness. (CBC)
St. Bonaventure's College principal Greg O'Leary said the school's first mission in a restorative justice program was to tackle a persistent problem with students arriving late in class.
"Many days there [were] 25 or more students late, and there are many days now when there are no students late," O'Leary told CBC News.
"It's a shift. It's an incredible shift in the school."
The restorative justice model is also being adopted at other schools, including some in the Eastern School District. The approach, which embraces similar principles as other alternative models like aboriginal sentencing circles, prefers to ask first and shoot later — if ever.
Teacher David Martino said the tardiness issue was a good place to start, and arose from a conversation with a teacher several months ago about a student who was habitually late.
"He said, 'I'm not sure why he's late. I don't think there's a real reason. But I can tell you it sort of gets to me because it contributes to the way he's seen in the class,' " Martino said in an interview.
Martino then approached the student.Teacher David Martino says students are often surprised to learn how their actions can affect others. (CBC)
"I said, 'Are you aware of how so and so, the teacher, feels?' And at first point, it was a surprise to the student that the teacher would really have perceived anything more to coming late than the breaking of a rule," he said.
The old model often involved slapping latecomers with detentions, but had not been effective in changing behaviour.
The new approach adopted over the fall highlights priorities, particularly listening actively
St. Bon's is now turning its attention to more serious problems, particularly bullying, with students recently gathered together to hear each other out after two particular situations.
"Everyone was able to recognize where the needs were, where the harm was, and because it was done in a really open way, people took responsibility," said Martino.
"Whether everyone's friends and it's all rosy is really not the point. They feel they have a place. They feel there is a safe environment for them."
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