Suspension issue identified at WSD, now comes the hard work, says admin
By Dave Baxter
Journalist Local Journalism Initiative
A new report released by Manitoba’s largest school division shows that although Indigenous students make up less than a third of their student body, they make up more than half of those who have been suspended from school.
This week, the Winnipeg School Division (WSD) released the Student Suspension Trends report, which was based on information collected between 2016 and 2019 that analyzed school suspensions.
The report shows that across the division, less than 3% of the roughly 30,000 enrolled students were suspended during this period.
But 55% of those suspensions were administered to students who identify as Indigenous, despite the fact that Indigenous students made up only 26% of the total student population.
In the WSD, behaviors that can lead to suspension from school include physical or verbal assault or drug trafficking.
WSD Board Chair Betty Edel brought forward a motion in 2019 for the WSD to study the data on suspensions in the division and examine trends within that data regarding the demographics of suspended individuals and directors. of the WSD voted in favor of the study.
Edel, who is of Métis descent, said she wanted to see the study unfold because the division needed to uncover the “truth” about the overrepresentation of Indigenous students when it comes to school suspensions.
“For me the path to reconciliation is truth, so let’s go to the truth for with truth comes action,” said Edel.
“So that’s what we did, we spoke our truth, but we speak our truth and now put it into action, we don’t just write a report and let it sit on a shelf.”
Edel said the division now needs a full top-down review of how, why and when they administer suspensions, to see what changes they can now make that could improve outcomes for Indigenous students and all students. .
“We need to consider everyone’s safety at school, but we also need to address the root cause of why this is happening, so that we can support the person and not just give them the impression: “Well you did it so you’re suspended and we don’t want you anymore.”
“Because when people feel like you don’t want them, they can turn around and say, ‘Well, I’m not wanted there anymore, so I’m just not going to go back.’ “
“As a society, we don’t want that. We want the kids to go to school and we don’t want human beings to feel less and care about their struggles because that just snowballs into a whole bunch of other issues. .
According to Edel, now that the division has the statistics, it will actively seek ways to reduce the number of suspended Indigenous students and said those strategies should include culturally appropriate methods.
“There are a lot of things we need to do to get to where we need it to be and we can’t do it on our own, we need community partners, parents and everyone on board.
“It has to be a community effort. “
Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter working for the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
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