A new option for suspended students

Mar. 08, 2014 @ 05:32 PM

A new option has emerged for Durham Public Schools’ high school students serving short-term suspensions of 10 days or less.
Rebound, Alternatives for Youth, a local community-based nonprofit organization, has launched an alternative program at the Durham Teen Center that program directors hope will help suspended students become more successful in school and in their lives.
The pilot program, modeled after the successful Boomerang program in Chapel Hill, will start small, initially taking referrals only from Jordan High School and serving no more than five students at one time.
After the pilot semester is completed in June, program co-directors Pam Gray and Lizzie Ellis-Furlong, both clinical social workers, will evaluate the program, along with the nonprofit’s board of directors, then modify it to serve more students.
“The idea is to see how it works, and we’ll roll out a longer program next year,” Ellis-Furlong said.
The program will operate Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and students will receive breakfast and lunch.
Each student will receive an individualized assessment and counseling, assistance with school work, a re-engagement plan, mentoring and daily exercise, among other services.
Ellis-Furlong said the program has received a $5,000 “Doing Good in the Neighborhood grant from Duke and support from Square 1 Bank area churches, individuals and group donors.
The city of Durham provided Rebound with a “no-rent lease” at the Teen Center with an option to renew for four years.
High school students serving short-term suspensions may also attend the Short-Term Suspension Intervention Center at the Lakeview School, an alternative program that primarily serves students who have a history of chronic misbehavior and/or have received long-term suspension.
“We have a lower rate of enrollment for that kind of student because they [students] don’t want to be in that kind of setting,” said Theresa McGowan, director of prevention and support services Durham Public Schools.
Nearly 3,200 students in grades 9-12 served short-term suspensions in Durham in 2011-12.
The experts say students who are suspended are at greater risk for engaging in criminal activity, lagging behind academically and dropping out-of-school.
The school district held several forums late last year to give citizens a chance to discuss the districts high rates of suspensions, particularly among black and Hispanic students.