Pubdate: Tue, 08 Aug 2017
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Joe Fries
Page: A2


Drugs top reason for student suspensions in Okanagan Skaha, but
suspensions due to threats over social media on rise

Certainly with the proliferation of cellphone use, we have had to
ensure students understand what appropriate use of technology looks
like. Todd Manuel

Inappropriate use of technology is now the second-most common reason
for student suspensions in the Okanagan Skaha School District.

Seven such suspensions were handed down during the 2016-17 session,
compared to just two in the previous three years combined, according
to data the Herald obtained from the school district in response to a
freedom-of-information request.

Inappropriate use of technology commonly involves making threats
towards others via social media, explained assistant superintendent
Todd Manuel, who described the issue as a sign of the times.

"Certainly with the proliferation of cellphone use, we have had to
ensure students understand what appropriate use of technology looks
like, and teach our students when they engage in behaviour that is
unsafe there will be a response from our schools," he said in an email.

"We also recognize that the increased availability of technology can
be a powerful learning tool for our students. With this in mind, our
schools continue to support the teaching and appropriate use of

Despite the problems associated with the increasing prevalence of
technology, though, drugs remain the No. 1 reason for student

Sixteen suspensions were handed out for using drugs at school last
year, accounting for nearly a third of all such sanctions.

Marijuana continues to be the most common drug seen in schools, said
Manuel, and administrators ensure their responses to such incidents -
and those involving alcohol - include counselling and education.

Assaults, poor behaviour, booze, threats, e-cigarettes and weapons
rounded out the list of reasons for suspensions.

All told, there were 56 suspensions assessed last year, up from 49 in
2015-16 and 44 in 2014-15, but down from 80 in 2013-14.

Manuel said the slow rise "is difficult to categorize as a meaningful
trend" due to the relatively small sample size, and noted school
administrators are now using a restorative justice-type process in
some cases where discipline is required.

"Suspension is always the last option our administrators want to use
when addressing student misbehaviour; however, it is sometimes a
necessary part of responding to help students to learn from mistakes
and, at the same time, ensuring our schools are safe environments for
all," he said.

Manuel also noted the district was responsible for approximately 5,700
kids last year, and "the vast majority of our students are doing
exceptionally well in our schools and rarely find themselves in a
situation where suspension is being considered."

The Herald requested suspension data for individual schools, which has
been provided in the past, but was denied.

Secretary-treasurer Bonnie Roller Routley wrote in a covering letter
on the FOI response package that the district now believes doing so
"would give rise to an unreasonable invasion of the personal privacy
of affected students."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt