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Teen intervention program praised

A new high school intervention program is being heralded as an “unqualified success” in helping troubled teens improve their behaviour.

Part of the city’s Crime Reduction Strategy, the School Suspension Program works with teens who have been suspended from school for substance abuse or violent behaviour.

Launched in April, the program has seen 67 Whalley students (Grade 6-8) go through the program, which involves officials from the school district, the city, RCMP and Fraser Health Authority.

Students under the iR3 (Intervention, Reflect, Refocus and Reintegration) are suspended for two days, but are required to attend a recreation centre in North Surrey during normal school hours, rather than staying home.

During that time, parents are interviewed, family needs are addressed and the student is counselled to end the disruptive behaviour.

“The really unique and special thing to iR3 in Surrey is... the fact it promotes connectedness to school,” said Safe Schools Manager Theresa Campbell. “It’s hard for administrators to say you have to go home for a couple of days when they know that might not be the best place for them in some circumstances. However, there needs to be consequences.”

Of the 67 students in the pilot program – which ran from April to mid-October – 56 showed a positive change after two weeks, and 47 were still showing improvement after six weeks.

Feedback from parents and youth has been positive, according to a report to council Monday.

“Sixty-four of the youth found the program helpful, and 62 believed the program to be a better alternative than the normal suspension process,” Crime Reduction Strategy Manager Lance Talbot wrote in the report.

“The National Institute for Research in Sustainable Community Development in Kwantlen University College has described (the program) as an unqualified success in engaging at-risk youth,” Talbot wrote.

School district staff in consultation with the city are now designing a plan for a district-wide implementation of the program.

Campbell said it has surpassed her expectations.

“It’s very unique in Canada and North America,” Campbell said Tuesday.

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