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ADAPT program gets high marks

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / September 29, 1998

LULING – In the past when a student was suspended from school, the suspension was like an added vacation for the student.

That free ride ended in St. Charles Parish schools last year with theimplementation of the ADAPT (Alternative Discipline A Positive Turnaround) in-school suspension program. Suddenly, suspensions becamemore of the punishment that they were intended to be.

Program coordinator Larry Anthony presented the results of the program’s first year to the St. Charles Parish School Board at its meeting Wednesdaynight, and the figures were better than what could be expected from a first year program – an almost 50 percent drop in the number of suspensions and a decrease in the frequency of multiple suspensions.

Those were the goals of the program whose mission was to collaborate as a community to ensure a safe and orderly environment for all students.

The program was devised by an in-school revision committee after 2,000 students were suspended during the 1995-96 school year, a suspension for about every five students.

Suspended students in middle school and high school are sent to facilities on the campuses of Destrehan and Hahnville high schools. Attendance inthe program is mandatory. The student’s teachers send their classwork tothe program, and they are responsible for the completion of all their work.

Two certified teachers are on hand at each facility to provide tutoring.

The students also go through physical education and drill and all must go through counseling sessions before leaving. Discipline and social skillsare also instilled in the students.

The community has also gotten involved in the program. The St. CharlesParish Sheriff’s Office provides resource officers at each facility. TheDistrict Attorney’s Office sees any students who might cause problems in the program, but Anthony said no students have been sent to the district attorney so far this year. The judges in the parish are also involved.Besides the two certified teachers and the resource officers, there is also a special education teacher and a paraprofessional at each facility.

Anthony, a physical education teacher and a counselor split time between the two facilities. And unlike in many other similar programs around thestate where those teachers are placed in the program, those involved in the St. Charles Parish ADAPT program have personally volunteered to bethere.

Anthony said the program is evaluated on the rate and frequency of suspensions, the students’ assignments and behavior and the exit essays that every student must complete before leaving the program. Anthonyalso did a follow up on every student who participated in the program last year in regards to their attendance and grades.

The results of the program, which was recently featured in the Modern Maturity Magazine put out by the AARP and in the St. Charles ParishSheriff’s Office newsletter, have been encouraging. There were 1,154suspensions parishwide during the 1997-98 school year, a drop from the 2,212 suspensions in 1996-97.

On a school-by-school basis, suspensions dropped from 822 to 410 at Destrehan High School and 744 to 327 at Hahnville High Schools. On themiddle school level, Cammon Middle School saw a decrease from 149 to 46, Harry Hurst a drop from 115 to 48 and Eual J. Landry a decrease from210 to 145. J.B. Martin Middle School was the only school to see a rise inthe number of suspensions, from 172 in 1996-97 to 178 in 1997-98.

The frequency of suspensions also dropped. First-time suspensions saw adecrease from 1,420 in 1996-97 to 771 in 1997-98. The number ofstudents suspended a second time decreased from 535 to 270 while third- time suspensions fell from 219 to 107. And the students suspended afourth time, which calls for the expulsion of the student, fell from 38 cases in 1996-97 to six in 1997-98.

Anthony said the response from everyone involved has been positive. Hesaid he has not received one negative comment from a parent and that they benefit because they know where their children are and that they are being supervised. As for the students, Anthony said that even the most negativeessays had something positive to say about the program. And thecommunity benefits because the students are not out walking the streets like they did under the old system.

Board member John Smith asked Anthony to take the students in the program and report on their repeat suspensions. And board memberClarence Savoie asked him to chart the academic progress for those students in the program.

Superintendent Rodney Lafon commended the Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office and the judges for working so close with the program and said he thinks it will make a difference in the long run.

“It has met with much more success than could have ever been imagined for a first-year program,” Lafon said.

In other business, the board approved the substantial completion of the fire system improvements at Hahnville High School and J.B. Martin MiddleSchool at a cost of $91,900 from the Capital fund. The board also approveda resolution supporting the United Way of St. Charles Parish.

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