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Trustees told how to reduce suspensions

Media Release

Trustees told how to reduce
suspensions – and stop students reoffending

Schools are being urged to look at an alternative method of discipline that could see an instant drop in student suspensions.

Bream Bay College Principal Wayne Buckland says most schools take a punitive approach to discipline, but this often results in repeat offending as the reasons behind the problem aren’t addressed.

However, a method called restorative conferencing involving meetings between the victim and offender means the offender faces up to their actions, addresses their values, and changes their behaviour. All parties come up with a plan that they feel is suitable and results have shown a reduction in reoffending.

Wayne Buckland is urging trustees attending the annual New Zealand School Trustees Association Conference in Invercargill to try the model at their school. The conference is being held between July 5 to 8 and has attracted about 400 delegates from around the country.

“Schools should know that there is an alternative to suspension that works in 80 percent of cases. If they want to reduce their suspensions very quickly and at the same time reduce reoffending, restorative conferencing is a great way to address that.”

He first trialled the model at his former school Whangarei Boys’ High School in 1999 and has since introduced it to Bream Bay College where he has been since term two. In that short time, he estimates that about 17 students who would have been suspended for drug related offences were now still in the school system.

“It is important that we move students to behaving appropriately through a sense of wanting to do the right thing. Giving kids stand downs or after school detentions in isolation is a bit like whacking them with a wet bus ticket.

“The kids would far rather have a stand down than face a restorative conference because it doesn’t expose them and their values which can be a pretty painful or hard process to go through and they would rather avoid it. But the end result is what makes it worth it.”

He cites the example of one student who was about to be expelled and instead was put through the conference process.
2/Trustees told how to reduce suspensions – and stop students reoffending

“He was asked to describe what happened, what he was thinking or feeling and he was asked to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes and to face up to the things that had resulted in his continual disobedience. The end result was he went back into the class for two terms and only got in to trouble once at the end of that time for a minor offence. Prior to that he had been involved in over 100 incidents.

“Using a restorative patter results in the students telling themselves what they should do. This is opposed to being told what to do where often they respond with thoughts of that old fuddy duddy told me to do that so I’m not going to do anything.”

Wayne Buckland says another problem with the punitive system is that the rights of the victims are often ignored. However restorative conferences focus on repairing the emotional and physical damage to the victim.

“It exposes the values in the offender and makes them face up to what they have done and show a commitment to putting it right. At the same it can help the victims answer the question of why me? Everyone goes away happy whereas in the old system no one really went away happy.”

He agrees the conference can take time, but says the trade off is that the students don’t constantly come back needing to be disciplined in the same areas and it helps the victim is always better off


For information contact phone (025) 429-212.

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