An official at a North Bay High School said its suspension numbers have dropped 80 per cent since starting a new conflict resolution program. Fewer students are being suspended with the help of a program inspired by First Nations.
Seven years ago, officials at West Ferris Secondary School in North Bay were suspending 382 students each school year. Last year, they suspended 77.
Some credit school administrator Todd Gribbon for the drastic drop in suspension rates. That's because, seven years ago, he implemented a program called Restorative Justice.
The program is inspired by First Nations practices and is based on communicating rather than punishing.
Gribbon said the program has transformed the way conflicts between students are resolved.
"Students can get stigmatized pretty quickly if they're punished, over and over again, and they don't get the opportunity to repair what they've broken," Gribbon said.
Gribbon said the key is asking the student questions like, "Why the act was committed? Who was affected? And, how can the problem be resolved?"
Other schools across the Near North District School Board are also adopting this program.
Terry Blair, the board’s superintendent, said other forms of discipline are still being used, especially when a student shows no signs of remorse.
"Those things could include anything from having case conferences, calling in the parent, detention, suspension, [and] even leading up to and including expulsion."
Gribbon's track record has been recognized nationally.
He was recently appointed to the founding board of directors for the program and will begin promoting Restorative Justice on a national scale.