Parents of students at an elementary school in Stratford, P.E.I., are questioning the way the school rewards good behaviour and punishes misbehaving.
Students who behave in a way deemened good by staff are given a pink slip, while students who misbehave are handed green slips. The slips are to be taken home, signed by a parent, and returned to the school.
"What the school administration calls a communication tool for parents, parents are saying it is public shaming for their children," Tanya Nace, president of the Stratford Elementary Home and School Association, told CBC News.
"It's harmful for the children because in a lot of cases it is given in a public way ... Maybe it's given in front of the classroom, or in front of their peers which creates discrimination."
'A negative effect'
Nace says she's heard from about 100 parents who have issues with the slip program.
"It doesn't seem to be very consistent. So, there are lots of different reasons students are given these green slips. It can even be given by a substitute who may not know who the student is, what their background is, maybe if they are dealing with a disability or a trauma in their life," Nace said.
"It creates children who may be scared about doing something wrong to be nervous about coming to school."
Nace said her own child, who is in Grade 3, is nervous about going to school because he's worried about being handed a green slip.
Other parents at the school have similar concerns.
"The green slips have, in my opinion, a negative effect on the children," said Patrick Ross, whose son attends the school.
"Children see them much more negatively than, I believe, what they are intended for.
"Having the child, in some instances, receiving a green slip in front of the class is hard for a child. I believe that the negative punishments never ultimately change the negative behaviour."
A communication tool
Principal Janet Coughlin-Cameron said school staff haven't received any complaints directly — they've all come through the home and school association.
She said the slips are simply a communication tool.
"[The slip] is sent home to parents to let them know if their child has stayed in at recess or lunchtime and what happened in the incident," she said.
Coughlin-Cameron said the tool has been effective — students who stay in during recess for a specific behaviour often don't repeat the behaviour, and she said there have been 23 school days so far this year where no one was held in during recess.
She said the program started about five years ago when teachers noticed a lot of "violence on the playground."
"As a strategy, it's just really about accountability and it's realizing, as a citizen in this world, you are taking responsibility for your action," she said.
"If you make a mistake that's okay. You do whatever you need to make it right. You move on. With the pink slips, it's when people actually notice you've actually done something kind and respectful — and you do get noticed for that."
The school has paused handing out green slips until school staff can meet with home and school, according to an emailed statement from the Public Schools Branch.
The school has twice tried to set up meetings but dates didn't line up for staff and the home and school executive, Coughlin-Cameron said.
Nace said she did hear from two parents who have no issue with the slip program, but added the majority of feedback has been negative.
The home and school association plans to meet Monday to discuss the issue. Officials with the Public Schools Branch told CBC News that school staff expect to explain the slip system to parents and determine the future of the program.