maple leaf 2-4. Why Don't Suspensions Work For Most Native Students?

(Not all reasons apply to every student)

1. When students are sent home, they often see it as being a holiday, or break, from school. They're glad to be "out of the battle zone".

2. When students are sent home, they are not receiving an educational program. Even if work is sent home, they are angry and will probably not do it.

3. It creates a "them" (school) and "us" (students) mind-set in the students which does not lend itself to a positive school climate. School becomes viewed as a hostile, or unwelcoming place, resulting in deeper rifts. Remember, the way a person sees themselves is way more important to that person, than how you see them. If they see themselves as helpless, victimized, etc., which is often the case when they are expelled, they will create a strong negative defense towards that environment. It doesn't matter a whole lot, to the student, the reasons behind the expulsion.

4. It does not create a climate of confidence, self-esteem building, or a sense of self-worth. It does exactly the opposite. Suspensions are counter-productive to educating most students. The message often received by the suspended student is, "You are not worth the time and/or energy," or, "You're no good". This is not the message the school intended to send.

5. When a First Nations student is sent home, an important, but unhealthy message is often received by the parents. This unhealthy message is not the one the school intended. The school wanted the student to come to terms with an unacceptable behavior. But he message received by the parents unfolds something like this.... Through years of negative school experiences, many First Nations parents develop a "bad image" of schools. When they have to go to see the principal, in the school, many of these feelings surface, and the message sent to the parent is one of:

- being a failure as a parent,
- reinforcement of the negative feelings of their school experience
- a sense of helplessness because their child is "going down the wrong path",
- negative feelings towards authority, and specifically the school, and
- a sense of frustration at not knowing how to deal with a system that is part of the larger Canadian society, of which First Nations people do not have any perceived control over.

Thus, when a Native student is sent home, in all likelihood, what the parent experiences is not one isolated incident, but all the abuse they suffered at the hands of the school system comes flooding back. They become revictimized by the school system, and this revicitimization causes a further distrust of the school. The results are either withdrawing or fighting. Very seldom does it result in what the school is after, which is parental support for the school in dealing with an inappropriate behavior.

6. Perception is also an important factor. Many members of the Native community sees student suspension as a sign that the school's discipline system is not working properly. This is mainly because most Native people don't see this type of consequence as being effective. They would rather address the negative behavior in other ways. Suspending someone for doing wrong is not a "Native way of doing things".

7. It creates in students a sense of powerlessness. How students see the event is critical because they construct their own reality, which can be vastly different from what the teacher/principal sees.

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