In what staff are calling “a bit of an anomaly,” Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) saw a significant decrease in the number of suspensions and expulsions dished out to students in the 2020/21 school year.
Superintendent of Learning, Paul Goldring, informed TLDSB trustees Oct. 26 that there were 780 infractions recorded last year – with 471 of those for secondary students and 309 for elementary. The main reasons listed for suspensions were conduct injurious to moral tone, fighting and/ or violence, conduct injurious to others, opposition to authority, vandalism and bullying.
When compared with statistics from the prior year, 524 for secondary and 625 for elementary, that represents a near 33 per cent drop.
“It’s important to note that we had two periods of remote learning last year for significant blocks of time. In terms of looking at the last two years of data, it’s difficult to compare year-to-year and establish any sort of trends.”
During 2018/19, the last full school year that wasn’t interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 809 secondary suspensions and 915 elementary suspensions.
Goldring noted that this past year was the first time that elementary infractions had exceeded secondary infractions.
The board permanently expelled eight students in 2020/21. Goldring noted expulsion was a “last resort” for the board, and were only considered after failed mediations with the student and parents.
“Mediation is something we have started to use more and more. The idea is it allows students to stay in school, but receive some level of support,” Goldring said. “The key factor here is we are looking at the situation and making sure the student is not a risk to the school, and other students.”
Further explaining the process, Goldring said school principals tend to take the lead with mediations.
“They will reach out to family and then try to come to a settlement. They will look at the period when the student can return to school, what type of support is needed before they return, and, in a lot of cases, what ongoing support they will need after they’ve returned,” Goldring said. “We see mediation as a very successful tool for us to use. I really like it as it keeps kids in school and gets them the support they need. I see it as a tool we will use more often if we can.”
Property ban lifted
Director of education, Wes Hahn, said visitors would be allowed back on TLDSB premises to attend outdoor functions, but maintained a ban on indoor visits.
“We are slowly moving in that direction (to open up schools to visitors), but there are timelines from the province for when that will take place. For now, we continue to limit visitors to school buildings,” Hahn said. “Even though the different seasons are coming to an end, we have decided to allow spectators to attend sporting events, while wearing a mask and [social] distancing. This is for outdoor only.”
Hahn said the main thing holding the board back from allowing indoor visits is requirements surrounding monitoring of vaccination statuses. He said it would be impossible to have staff on hand to check each individual’s status, and that the board could not have people in the building they’re “not certain of.”
With many indoor sports and clubs set to start up heading into winter, Hahn hopes to receive direction from the province regarding reopening their facilities in the coming weeks.
“We will let parents and the community know when things change,” he said.
Haliburton County trustee Gary Brohman asked Hahn if TLDSB was tracking data on vaccination rates of its staff.
“We are, and I am pleased to report our vaccination rate is at approximately 87 per cent for staff,” Hahn said. “Our process is that staff have to report being fully vaccinated, being medically exempt, or if they’re [choosing] not to be [vaccinated].”
Any member of staff who isn’t vaccinated is required to participate in an education program highlighting the benefits of the vaccine, and submit to weekly COVID-19 testing and incident screening.”