The fallout from a Mount Douglas secondary ‘prank gone awry’ has raised questions over discipline in the local school district.
School officials told the Saanich News that the offending players were alone in the team’s locker room when they intentionally sprayed the gear with a water bottle which, unbeknownst to them, contained urine.
Principal Shawn Boulding confirmed the incident at the time, but wouldn’t confirm the length of the suspensions, except to say that they were shorter than five days.
Under SD61’s disciplinary process, principals have the discretion to apply suspensions as they see fit. Anything above five days triggers a committee process with the principal and two more administrative figures from within the district (in this case, the district was made aware of the incident).
In total, it’s believed one of the suspensions was served in-school, and that both players will miss a few preseason games when the season starts in September (this would not be confirmed by the team coach). The football program’s spring training season was also shutdown in May, albeit temporarily.
It’s part of a shift the education system has made from handing out disciplinary suspensions to becoming proactive with the students, said Greg Kitchen, associate superintendent with the Greater Victoria School District.
“One of the things that has changed over time is that school districts have gotten better at addressing behaviour issues and are using suspensions less frequently,” Kitchen said, adding the district doesn’t release the numbers and lengths of suspensions. “We wrap around the students instead of pushing them away.”
Case in point, on May 24, the football team held a healing circle for the entire team.
“Do we still suspend students? Yes, but [suspensions] are less frequent than they were in past times,” Kitchen added. “We use restorative practices and restitution when possible.”
The latter is not always practical, as victims are often disinterested in sharing a room with the perpetrator of the act.
District superintendent Piet Langstraat is not involved in case-by-case disciplinary hearings but can be called upon in the case of an appeal. He noted that one of the challenges with modern discipline is when to define actions as bullying instead of conflict.
Bullying is an imbalance of power, while conflict between two individuals can also be characterized as bullying, he said.
In this case, Boulding and coach Mark Townsend didn’t believe the incident was a case of bullying, referring to the urine incident as a prank gone awry.