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Suspended students can take a PASS at Sudbury Secondary School

Sudbury Secondary School is allowing some students to trade in their punishment for intervention.
Jackie Balleny, vice-principal of Sudbury Secondary School (left), Victor Leroux, school resource officer for the Greater Sudbury Police Service, and Christine Lafortune (right), project coordinator for NOAH's S.P.A.C.E. have high hopes for the new PASS program for suspended students at Sudbury Secondary School. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Sudbury Secondary School is allowing some students to trade in their punishment for intervention.

The school has launched a new pilot project aimed at helping students who are suspended for five days or less. The project gives students the choice between serving a regular suspension or participating in counselling and community work.

The program was put together by several partners, including Sudbury police.

“It's basically a one-stop shop to help them,” said Constable Victor Leroux, a Sudbury police officer who works as the school’s resource officer.

“And perhaps, at home, when the family needs something, [the program will] give them a road map to services they may need to prevent [the student] from ever getting in trouble again.”

Project co-ordinator Christine Lafortune said that element could be significant.

"Sometimes the youth are behaving in such a manner at school because of the struggles that are going on within the home."

The pilot project, also known as the PASS system, runs until June.

Vice-Principal Jackie Balleny said students who take a PASS will receive help from counsellors at a neighbourhood outreach group called NOAH's S.P.A.C.E.

"Emotions run high and emotions trump reason,” Balleny said. “And so they need some time to process that."

Students who use the program will also receive a certificate and a free day at the YMCA from Sudbury Police.

"Even if we can't take on the entire city, it may get other agencies involved with the schools,” Leroux said.

Building long-term connections among schools, students and community services is an important goal of the program, Balleny added.

Organizers hope other schools implement similar intervention programs for students who are suspended for fewer than five days.

“We want students to feel supported,” she said.