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Suspensions, expulsions no longer fun and games

December 17, 2008
There was a time when Crawford County students who were suspended or expelled from school stayed home for the duration of the suspension or expulsion. Those days are over.

Now, there's a new plan. They can't just stay home, watch TV and play video games. They are sent to the Crawford County Youth Service Bureau, where the students have to follow the rules, which are rigid, and keep up their school work. Plus, they have to help out in the community.

Last January, the YSB, in conjunction with the Crawford County School Corp., began the new suspension/expulsion program, and the results have met and even exceeded expectations.

"The school corporation didn't want the students who were suspended or expelled to stay at home," Allison Millar, YSB executive director, said. "That's why this program was started.

"With a suspension, a student can be out of school for up to 10 days, depending on the offense, which is decided by the principal," she said. "An expulsion can keep a student out of school for the remainder of the semester and the following semester. They can get so far behind on their school work that they can never catch up. But, by coming here, their teacher can fax us their daily work, and the student can complete it here. And they have to complete their work before they can go back to regular school."

Millar said many of the expulsions are drug related and almost all of those are for prescription drugs.

"Prescription drugs are the main problem for kids now," Millar said. "We still see problems with alcohol, but not as much as the prescription drugs. And there are even some junior high kids who have been in trouble for prescription drugs. But often that isn't because they are hooked on drugs, but because they think it's cool."

But the goal of the program is to make sure the students aren't missing out on any of the required work.

"We're really strict here," Millar said. "But most of the students like it here and do well. We have a small room where the kids who have been expelled go to do their work and they don't have to act out to get attention. Often, kids get behind in regular school and their grades begin to fall. Then, they start acting out. That's usually when we get them.

"We try to keep them on track, and at the same time, deal with their issues. If a student doesn't have enough food at home, a good roof over their heads, or if they have family problems, they often make poor choices. We do lots of talking and come up with ideas that help them. We even do referrals to other resources if we think it will help. Most of the time, if their issues are dealt with, the academics will fall in place."

Every Monday, the students attending the YSB have to work off-campus, helping at various locations throughout the community.

"Sometimes, they go to Todd-Dickey (Nursing and Rehabilitation Center) in Leavenworth," Millar said. "They read to the residents and talk to them. And they put up decorations. Sometimes they work at the elderly housing in Marengo doing everything from pulling weeds to washing windows. Giving back to the community is important and you'd be amazed at how they come back feeling better about themselves.

"And they also work here an hour or so a day, doing whatever needs to be done, from making cards for nursing homes to cleaning toilets. We work on their life skills every day. We do anger management and work on drug, alcohol and tobacco issues. And we adjust to what their needs are."

More than 100 students went through the suspension/expulsion program the first semester it was offered and there have been 106 students in the program this semester, which doesn't include in-school suspensions.

"Without this program, all of those kids would be out of school," Millar said. "We offer a good support system here. And when the time comes that they realize they can actually do the work they're given, when they realize 'I can do this,' you can see it in their whole body and the way they carry themselves.

"A lot of the students who come here won't even make eye contact with us at first, but after they build a relationship with us, it's a lot different. After they leave here and return to regular school, we've had some of them stop by and say, 'I wish I was still here.'"

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    December 17, 2008 | 03:12 PM

    I think this is a wonderful program. We need more programs such as this to help our youth here in Crawford County. Making a child feel good about himself is the key to sucess.

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