The Restorative Action Program in Saskatoon is seeing an increase in demand as students struggle with their mental health.
RAP Saskatoon president Leane Durand said their facilitators act as a bridge and are there to listen and offer supports to kids facing conflict.
“Our facilitators offer a trusted, judgment-free space with a focus on one-on-one relationship building and conflict resolution,” Durand said.
She said this is especially prevalent in Grade 9 students, adding they’ve seen a notable increase in situations this year.
Durand gave an example of a group of girls deciding to ostracize one girl, saying that can escalate to the point where that single girl decides she isn’t going to school anymore, and things only get worse from there.
Durand said they are involved in a range of situations, from what some may consider small drama to much more escalated situations where violence and weapons could be introduced.
She said all the facilitators are trained professionals and all have a degree in social work or an education degree, and also have extra training in conflict management.
“The level that we are involved in really depends on each situation.”
Durand said they are seeing increased enrolment in schools, but that they are seeing this increased need due to the lingering effects of isolation during the pandemic as well as the effects of social media.
The program in Saskatoon works in 11 of the high schools in the city, but the alarm was raised about violence in classrooms across the province earlier this year.
“We are seeing an increase of violence in our classes, unfortunately,” Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president Samantha Becotte said in July, noting that some students have trouble regulating their emotions, which can sometimes lead to violence.
“This is at no fault of the students. This is a result of class complexity and students not having access to the resources that they need.”
Becotte said more professional supports for students were needed, and that both teachers and students have a right to a classroom that is safe.