Number of school suspensions can be reduced

Happy belated Hallowe’en.
Over the next few months, I would like to use this column to discuss some subjects which often are not mentioned in student handbooks or information nights.
The first topic is one that most parents hope they never have to deal with—suspension from school.
As a school community, we are very proud of Fort Frances High School. However, every year we have students who are suspended from school. This means a student has been involved in a very serious violation of the school rules.
With the exception of expulsion (and in my 15 years at Fort High, I do not remember an expulsion), suspension from school is the most serious consequence for improper behaviour the school can administer to a student.
Suspensions are not given out lightly. They are punitive in nature, but also are meant to be a deterrent to prevent other students from engaging in the same behaviour.
In a perfect world, every student would conduct themselves properly at school and we would never issue a suspension. However, the world is not yet perfect.
The reasons for suspension are varied. In the past year, students at Fort High have been suspended for fighting, assault, possession or use of illegal substances such as drugs and alcohol, confrontational behaviour such as swearing at a teacher or person in authority, and other reasons.
Depending on the nature of the offence, suspensions usually range from one-five days. School work will be provided for the suspended student upon request.
Only in extreme cases or for repeated serious offences will a student be suspended for longer than five days. In cases of offences which also are criminal in nature, the police also may be involved.
While the reasons for, and length of, suspension are varied, they do have one thing in common. With a little forethought by the student, and in some cases by the parent, the suspension could have been avoided.
How can parents help? First and foremost, talk to your child. Let him/her know that certain standards of behaviour will be expected at school. Prepare them for situations in advance. Let them know that it is OK to talk to you.
High school is the time when students are making the transition from childhood to adulthood. In some cases they are faced with very adult problems and don’t now how to react.
If a so-called friend pressures them to drink or use drugs at lunch hour, what do they do? If someone at school challenges them to a fight, how should they respond?
If they feel they have been treated unfairly by a member of the school staff, what is the appropriate reaction?
Teenagers often are unsure of how to react in these situations and they easily can make the wrong choices. Encourage them to seek your guidance.
Ask questions of your child every day. Do you remember those days when your child was in Grade 2 and wanted to tell you what happened at school? Well, chances are now that your child is in high school, their attitude has changed.
Don’t give up. Ask your child what happened at school every day and don’t take “nothing” for an answer. If parents take the time now to try and open the lines of communication, however difficult that may be, it will pay huge dividends later.
If you know what is going on with your child at school, there is less chance that they will get into a situation they cannot handle.
Finally, be proactive. When your child comes home and talks about a problem at school, even if it is other students who are having the problem, pick up the phone and call the school. Let us know what is going on.
You may have heard the statement, “It takes an entire village to raise a child.” We work very hard to make Fort Frances High School a safe and welcoming place for all students, but we can use all the help we can get.
If you know of a potential problem, let us know so we can take action to help those involved before it becomes serious. I am always amazed when the school investigates a situation and we discover that an adult knew of the situation but did nothing to let the school know.
As I stated at the beginning of this column, in a perfect world, the school would never issue a suspension. While that lofty goal may never be reached, if we work together, we can certainly reduce the number of suspensions.
When students are not in school, they are not achieving—and achievement ultimately is what matters for each and every student.
As always, if you have questions about this column or any other issues related to Fort Frances High School, feel free to call me at the school.

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