Progressive Discipline: Mitigating Circumstances and the Austerity Agenda

Wendy Goodes

students diminish the ability of schools to assist those at risk.

The special education funding formula, based on a combination of school enrolment and a statistical model, does not accurately reflect classroom needs. More resources are needed to provide supports for students, but also to support the classroom teacher through training, human resources and material resources. The value of the additional support that teachers in the classroom receive from a multitude of others – educational assistants, behavioural counsellors, psychologists, speech and language pathologists, audiologists and child and youth workers – cannot be understated. Yet, without adequate funding, these are the first people who are cut from school board budgets each year.

In the 12-year span from 2000-2012, the education system has moved from an emphasis on reacting to unacceptable behaviours to a very complex process that uses progressive discipline and mitigating factors to normalize unacceptable behaviour. While many schools are promoting positive and healthy school climates and the making of good choices, violence in our classrooms is still on the rise.

Bill 212, the Progressive Discipline and School Safety Act , has mandated so much for our students. It recognizes that racialized and special needs students are targeted far more often than other students. It recognizes that when children have been suspended or expelled, their education suffers. It mandates that resources and supports be provided. It encourages positive school climates. It recognizes that bullying is unacceptable in our schools. It requires that GSAs be allowed. It recognizes the importance of documentation. It mandates that parents be made aware of problems that their children may be experiencing. It mandates that parents be informed when their children have been harmed. It recognizes that supports are needed if we are to truly make our classrooms safe. The goal is positive, but fulfilling its objectives is undermined by the lack of resources, training and support.

Bill 212 also fails on a number of accounts. It does not protect the children in our classes from being harmed or witnessing the harm done to others. It does not stop bullying from occurring. It does not keep our teachers and education workers safe. It does not assist at-risk students who react to upheaval in their environments that gives rise to unacceptable behaviours in the first place.

Further legislative changes are not the answer. The solution to these challenging classroom issues – the underlying source of the violence we experience far too regularly – is to restructure funding. For that to happen, the government has to abandon its austerity agenda and fund programs and services that fully support students and allow classroom educators to meet the needs of all of their students in a safe and healthy environment.

Wendy Goodes is a member of Kawartha Pine Ridge Teacher Local.