Inuvik youth centre scraps '3 strikes you're out' disciplinary system

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Inuvik youth centre scraps '3 strikes you're out' disciplinary system

Inuvik youth centre scraps '3 strikes you're out' disciplinary system

Faith Raymond walks over and points at a cork board now littered with graffiti.

"So here is where we used to post the 'strike sheets,'" said Raymond, the coordinator for the Inuvik Youth Centre.

"It would have their names, the reason why they had the strike, and what time they got the strike."

Raymond first came to the centre four years ago, started volunteering, and eventually became an employee. She says as long as she's been there, the centre operated on a "'three strikes, you're out' system."

That system saw kids being kicked out almost daily.

Now it's scrapped.

"I feel like there was a sense of embarrassment and shame, because the other youth would tease kind of the more troublesome youth," Raymond recalled.

"It just didn't seem like a positive way of enforcing our rules."

Raymond believes the strike sheets would tend to encourage bad behaviour and some kids would start to make a game out of it — for example, some would try to get kicked out right before closing.

'A lot of resentment'

When Cheryl Zaw began her role as executive director of the youth centre last spring, she realized that the existing system of discipline had to go.

"There was a lot of resentment between kids and staff. I think staff didn't feel very comfortable with the need to be kicking kids out, but they didn't really know what to do with it," said Zaw.

Now, employees focus on talking about issues with young people before asking them to leave. It's rare for kids to be kicked out anymore, Zaw said.

"We've really moved towards a 'let's see what we can do to keep you here and get you through it' [approach]. It took a few months for everyone to get a feel for that, but I think it has made a huge difference."

The centre has also made other changes.

Zaw secured funding to increase the number of staff and to add more programming. The centre has also received new music and digital gear through donations and grants.

Good response from youth

So far, the changes are getting a good response from the youth.

Thirteen-year-old Hunter Cockney wasn't a fan of the strike sheets.

"I was usually on it and I usually got kicked out ... I like that there is no strike rule anymore," Cockney said.

Now, he is one of the youth centre's volunteers, and has been enjoying some of the added programming.

"We are going towards this place being modeled based on some ideas of what a home should be like," Zaw said.

"The larger goal is to get back to the place where all kids in the community have healthy homes to go to, and don't need this to be as central."