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Winnipeg School Division examines demographics, effects of student suspensions

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A new report from the Winnipeg School Division shows Indigenous students are overrepresented in those being suspended – Dec 8, 2021

The Winnipeg School Division has done a deep dive into student suspensions over a three-year period.

A new report, released by the division’s board of trustees Tuesday, looks at demographic information around suspensions between 2016-2019.

Among the report’s findings is that while Indigenous students represent just over a quarter of the division’s students, they make up 55 per cent of suspensions.

“We’re pleased to now have this report available, which was delayed due to the pandemic, and that we can continue meaningful progress in engaging our communities in the area of restorative practices,” said board chair Betty Edel.

“The report clearly shows that there is an over-representation of Indigenous students even among the small percentage of total students who are suspended.”

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Overall, less than three per cent of the division’s more than 35,000 students engage in activities deemed suspension-worthy, the report said, with common behaviours including the use of weapons, as well as verbal or physical assault on staff or other students.

According to the report, suspended students are more likely to struggle academically, earning less credits and passing fewer courses than their peers.

Longer suspensions are also connected to more withdrawals from courses, with only a 22 per cent course completion rate for students handed 20- to 30-day suspensions.

“We recognize that removing students from the school environment is sometimes necessary for the safety of everyone, however, even with continued learning supports we see that suspended students are much more likely to fail or discontinue a course of instruction,” said Edel about the Winnipeg School Division (WSD) report.

“The work already happening in WSD to continue to engage and support students who have been suspended is remarkable, and yet there is always more we can do to increase their chance of academic success.”

The division said it plans to engage community partners and elders to address concerns around suspensions, and intends to connect with newcomer and Indigenous support teams and mental health agencies.

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