1. Disrespectful behavior from students, or teachers, is unacceptable. Something must be done. When issues reach a suspension stage, often problems exist at various levels between student/home/school/teachers/policies/etc.
2. A pitfall that schools often fall into when working with Native students is they "expect students to be respectful" automatically. That's how they grew up. But in most Native communities, respect must be earned by the individual one person at a time. When students come to school, they expect to operate the same way.
3. The "standard" way Native people deal with a student who is doing something wrong, is addressed in basically two different ways:
4. Before alternatives to suspensions can be agreed upon, how the local Native people deal with behaviors needs to be understood in order to design a system that is acceptable to the local Native community. Very briefly, some important cultural issues that need to be understood include:
5. In the short term, what could be done that would help the student, and the school do what the school is designed to do?:
- meeting(s) with parents, student, teacher, and others in the school,
- form a committee involving appropriate stakeholders to discuss potential problem students well before they reach a suspension stage,
- involve the student in some of the committee meetings, when appropriate,
- develop an approach to working with students that is student-centered,
- develop a consistent approach throughout the school,
- have a program where students on the verge of being suspended are involved in activities (to build self-esteem, anger management, etc.) with out-of-school people helping (elders/etc.) to help students confront some of their unacceptable behaviors,
- suspensions are acceptable only after the above activities are tried and when the committee feels the student can not be helped by the school system, and
- for students who are suspended, there must be meetings with the local Native band representatives to explain why, and to look to other agencies, such as Ministry of Children and Families to assist the student.
This type of process give the student, parent, and school system an equal footing and attempts to deal with unacceptable behaviors in a more culturally relevant way.
6. It is important that Native people feel they are a part of the solution, and their ways of life are valued when it comes to their children. Properly involving Native parents is extremely difficult because the two cultures often approach the same issue from different directions. The traditional Native way of dealing with people is more respecting of the person, their views, and their space. It's believed that a person learns more when they are treated with respect, given time to deal with issues, and having people around who are willing to counsel/support.