TRURO – A restorative approach to solving student, teacher and community conflicts is making a positive impact, says a local school board representative.
Scott Milner, director of education services with Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, informed school board members during a meeting in Truro on Wednesday night that a restorative approach pilot program that began this past spring is indeed reducing the number of school-related suspensions.
“We are seeing results almost immediately,” said Milner of the project in select schools throughout CCRSB that “takes a relational approach” between parties involved in conflict, including students, teachers and people in the community. The approach embraces behaviour modification, techniques and training to all involved parties.
Milner told the Truro Daily News the total number of students suspended throughout CCRSB during early September to early November this year through the pilot project is down eight per cent. That compares to a five per cent decrease during the same time last year without the project.
“Suspensions across CCRSB are down, but the schools in this pilot are down even more,” Milner told this paper.
Regarding extended suspensions, which are more than five days, the board has seen 72 per cent less because of the pilot during the early part of the school year compared to last year. Boardwide, there was a 41 per cent reduction over last year.
In addition, the number of lost school days also improved in relation to the restorative approach. Those schools doing the initiative had 65 per cent less lost time compared to 53 per cent less for schools that didn’t embrace the restorative concept.
Colchester County schools participating in the three-year pilot restorative approach project include Cobequid Educational Centre, Truro Junior High School, Truro, Brookfield and Hilden elementary schools, Harmony Heights, South Colchester Academy, Winding River Consolidated School and Upper Stewiacke elementary.
Milner said the program is beneficial because it does not focus on issuing consequences and punishments for inappropriate behaviour, as was often the case in the past.
“It considers the impact on the person harmed and the person who did the harm … they are brought together” as well as other people potentially involved in the situation so they can pursue a healthier respect and relationship.
“Relationships matter … it’s a skill-building shift of thinking,” Milner said.