When I spoke to Mike Sullivan last week, I asked him why he was often down on Weston in the House of Parliament.
His assistant, Paul Ferreira, wrote to inform me that Sullivan has been more upbeat about our riding; on April 30, in fact, he drew the country’s attention to the innovative anti-bullying program at Weston CI.
Mr. Speaker, my riding of York South—Weston has an amazing gem of a school in Weston Collegiate Institute. When principal Deborah Blair arrived three years ago, the school was plagued with non-stop bullying, especially among girls. She led students and staff through training in a remarkable program called “Restorative Practices”. It is a whole school approach based on the belief “not to penalize, but to restore. Victims are empowered to play a key role in addressing the harm that has been done”.
Victims and the accused are brought together in restorative conferences led by peers and attended by parents and staff.
The program has been so successful that these conferences are now rare. In three years, office referrals of students have gone from 80 each day to just 5. Suspensions are down from 151 to just 46. As a result of the declining suspensions, student achievement has gone up and the numbers of credits earned have increased.
Sometimes the most effective way to change behaviour is not to punish but to restore. There is a great lesson at Weston Collegiate Institute for all of us.
Thank you Mr Sullivan. Now, if you could say something nice about the excellent local reporting in Weston…