Don't punish kids without understanding what's driving their behaviour, parents say

·4 min read

Some Midland parents say threatening teens with charges won't change their behaviour --- other options exist for dealing with 'flagrant, bad' behaviour.

Brenda Ross Coombs said she couldn't see how the move suggested by Mayor Stewart Strathearn earlier this week would have fruitful results.

"This pandemic has been a terrible blow to teens," said the Midland resident, who's the parent of a high school student. "I don't think threatening them with charges will change behaviours. They need help managing their emotions, and to feel as if their actions make a difference in keeping our community safe.

"When adults are still arguing about issues, how do we expect children to take them seriously?" added Coombs.

Another Midland resident also had suggestions.

"Bring them back to the school and immediately switch them to online for the rest of the semester," said Tanya King. "Now that they are learning in tandem, it's no hardship for the schools. This goes for both Catholic and public (schools), as students are doing the same thing at each, just in different areas."

Tammy Maurice thought progressive disciplinary actions would help.

"As a parent there should be the three strike rule," said the Midland resident. "First, a warning, second, make them write a essay and they have a certain amount of time to hand it back to the officer and third strike, charge them. If they don’t have a job, make them do community hours around the town. I don’t think a parent should pay their fine."

The opinions were expressed in response to Strathearn's comments during a recent Midland Police Services Board meeting. He was asking the OPP official in attendance if charging teenagers was the next step in trying to control their behaviours that disregarded social distancing and face covering instructions from the health unit and province.

Where John-Paul Graham, acting detachment commander, admitted the topic had been under discussion at the Midland and neighbouring detachments, he was hesitant in siding with the mayor's suggestion.

Graham said that the OPP's school resource officer has returned to work and is looking into getting the message through to the kids by involving the board as well as the parents.

The school board, which Strathearn said is usually mum on such issues, also sent in a response, similar to Graham's line of thinking.

"It is important for all of us to work together during this pandemic and I do believe the key is educating students about what they could and should be doing to stop the spread of COVID-19," was the emailed response from George Luck, prinicipal, St. Theresa's Catholic High School.

He added that the school has well-defined health and safety protocols in place, which the students and staff are doing an excellent job of following, when they are in class and on school property.

"We don’t like to hear about situations where our students are acting irresponsibly when they are off-campus and in their free time," Luck continued. "When we are made aware of situations in the community we do work with local merchants, our community police service and families to resolve them in an appropriate manner. We need to be good neighbours and I know that the vast majority of our students are striving to embody that sentiment."

He didn't specify what disciplinary measures the school tends to take if a situation is brought to the administration's attention.

"We always deal with situations on a case-by-case basis and determine appropriate responses," said Luck. "We continue to do a series of daily reminders about our health and safety protocols and also weekly messages about being ambassadors of St. Theresa's in the community and to act accordingly."

For those who disregard health and safety protocols, he wrote, the school will continue to work with community partners to resolve issues when they arise.

"I believe that in order to address issues in the long-term, we will need solutions which involve community partnerships, open communication, education, information sharing and reinforcing positive behaviours," said Luck. "We are all in this together and I do believe a collaborative approach will be more effective for our youth and our community in the long run."

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,