Alternative School violence concerns board

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, May 13, 2014

By Monique Roth

RESERVE — Fearing a violent setting, students designated to attend St. John Alternative School have pleaded with the school board for an exemption in their placement at the location.

The alternative school, which serves fourth through 12th graders, was created by St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools three years ago by merging the district’s redirection program for students with disciplinary problems and its accelerated program for students who were behind in school.

The school’s mission is to create an environment in which every student has the opportunity to become personally responsible for his or her academic, social and civic growth and physical well-being.

However, numerous school board members have heard complaints about the setting being too violent, hindering students’ academic advancement.

Board member Russ Wise said students routed to the center because of discipline problems in their high schools have gone before the school board to ask for an exemption from having to enter the redirection program because they are scared of the violence.

Wise spoke at this month’s school board meeting, where several board members shared similar sentiments.

Superintendent Kevin George said a committee has been established to collect ideas about what should be done to the program.

“We will get it right,” George said. “We don’t have a choice.”

George said addressing the issue would be a constant process with the committee providing reports and suggestions.

Board member Patrick Sanders suggested law enforcement personnel be added to the committee.

The school board office said currently there is a police officer assigned to the school and all students go through a metal detector daily. There is also a counselor and a social worker assigned to the school.

The school board meets again Thursday.