Progressive discipline is a whole-school approach that utilizes a continuum of interventions, supports, and consequences to address inappropriate student behaviour and to build upon strategies that promote positive behaviour. When inappropriate behaviour occurs, disciplinary measures should be applied within a framework that shifts the focus from one that is solely punitive to a focus that is both corrective and supportive. The Catholic Church has always taught the faithful to hate the sin but to love the one who has sinned and that moments of reconciliation and forgiveness are always available – no matter what the behaviour entailed. To this end, a Catholic School is challenged to ensure that while appropriate consequences are in place should a serious behaviour occur, the school must take measures which leave open the possibility of conversation and reconciliation. The school must never give the student the message subtly that they have given up on the student. The Catholic school is committed to the dignity and sacredness of each student as created in the image of God even if the behaviour is mystifying and incongruous with that faithful anthropology of the human person. Catholic schools utilize a range of interventions, supports, and consequences that include learning opportunities for reinforcing positive behaviour while helping students to make good choices.
In some circumstances, short-term suspension may be a useful tool. In the case of a serious incident, long-term suspension or expulsion, which is further along the continuum of progressive discipline, may be the response that is required.
For students with special education needs, interventions, supports, and consequences must be consistent with the student’s strengths, needs, goals, and expectations contained in his or her Individual Education Plan (IEP). At times, the impact of a student’s behaviour even with the accommodations and/or modifications of the IEP may be so extreme as to warrant a suspension, expulsion or exclusion from the school.
Schools are expected to actively engage parents in the progressive discipline approach. In accordance with the Code of Canon Law, canon 796, subsection 2, “There must be the closest cooperation between parents and teachers to whom they entrust their children to be educated. In fulfilling their task, teachers are to collaborate closely with the parents and willingly listen to them; associations and meetings of parents are to be set up and held in high esteem”.
A progressive discipline approach includes the use of early and ongoing intervention strategies and strategies to address inappropriate behaviour, which are described below:
Early and Ongoing Intervention Strategies
Early and ongoing intervention strategies will help prevent unsafe or inappropriate behaviours in school and in school-related activities. Intervention strategies should provide students with appropriate supports that address inappropriate behaviour and that would result in an improved school climate. For example, early interventions may include, but are not limited to, contact with parents, detentions, verbal reminders, review of expectations, or a written work assignment with a learning component.
Ongoing interventions may be necessary to sustain and promote positive student behaviour and/or address underlying causes of inappropriate behaviour. For example, ongoing interventions may include, but are not limited to, meetings with parents, volunteer service to the school community, conflict mediation, peer mentoring, behaviour plans and/or a referral to counseling.
Strategies for Addressing Inappropriate Behaviour
When inappropriate behaviour occurs, schools should utilize a range of interventions, supports, and consequences that are developmentally appropriate, and should include opportunities for students to focus on improving behaviour. Consequences for inappropriate behaviour may include, but are not limited to, meeting with the parent(s), student, and principal; referral to a community agency for anger management or substance abuse; and detentions or loss of privileges.
In considering the most appropriate response to address inappropriate behaviour, the following should be taken into consideration:
• the particular student and circumstances (i.e. student’s academic reports, student’s behavioural history, mitigating or other factors)
• the nature and severity of the behaviour
• the impact on the school climate (i.e. the relationships within the school community, the degree of risk for further harm).
Bullying Prevention and Intervention
In Policy/Program Memorandum No. 144, released by the Ministry of Education on October 4, 2007, “bullying” has been defined as:
“a form of repeated, persistent and aggressive behaviour that is directed at an individual or individuals that is intended to cause (or should be known to cause) fear and distress and/or harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, or reputation. Bullying occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance.”
Students may attain or maintain power over others in the school through real or perceived differences. Some areas of difference may be size, strength, age, intelligence, economic status, social status, solidarity of peer group, religion, ethnicity, disability, need for special education, sexual orientation, family circumstances, gender, and race.
Bullying is a dynamic of unhealthy interaction that can take many forms. It can be physical (i.e. hitting, pushing, tripping), verbal (i.e. name calling, mocking, or making sexist, racist, or homophobic comments), or social (i.e. excluding others from a group, spreading gossip or rumours). It may also occur through the use of technology (i.e. spreading rumours, images, or hurtful comments through the use of e-mail, cellphones, text messaging, Internet websites, or other technology).
Children who suffer prolonged victimization through bullying, as well as children who use power and aggression as bullies, may experience a range of psycho-social problems that may extend into adolescence and adulthood.
Providing students with an opportunity to learn and develop in a safe and respectful society is a shared responsibility in which school boards and school play an important role. Catholic schools have bullying prevention and intervention strategies foster a positive learning and teaching environment that supports academic achievement along with spiritual and moral development for all students.
A positive school climate is a crucial component of prevention; it may be defined as the sum total of all of the personal relationships within a school. When these relationships are founded in mutual acceptance and inclusion, and modelled by all, a culture of respect becomes the norm. A positive school climate exists when all members of the school community feel safe, comfortable, and accepted. To help achieve a positive environment in their schools, the Board and its schools will actively promote and support positive behaviours that reflect their character development initiatives. They will also endeavour to ensure that parents and members of the broader community are involved in the school community.
The Board will support and maintain a positive school climate in its schools. The following are some characteristics of a positive school climate:
• Students and staff feel safe and are safe.
• Healthy and inclusive relationships are promoted.
• Students are encouraged to be positive leaders in their school community.
• All partners are actively engaged.
• Bullying prevention messages are reinforced through programs addressing discrimination based on such factors as age, race, sexual orientation, gender faith, disability, ethnicity, and socio-economic disadvantage.
• Improvement of learning outcomes for all students is emphasized.
In recognition of the importance of addressing bullying, which can have a significant impact on student safety, learning, and the school climate, bullying is included in the list of infractions for which suspension must be considered.