Friday, June 9, 2000
New CCHS program helps students during suspension
Concord-Carlisle High School started a new program to help students who are suspended which keeps them at school rather than sending them home. The Planning Room, supervised by a full-time school adjustment counselor, gives students a chance to develop a short-term plan for their return to classes. Dean of Students Peter Badalament explained, "The goal is to help kids get back on track. There are a lot of good kids who make one bad decision and they can benefit from the program."
Students who have been suspended report to the Planning Room each day to do their school work and receive counseling. Planning Room counselor Sheila Murray works with students to think about their behavior, why they were suspended and ways to avoid getting into trouble in the future. "It gives kids a quiet place to unload their burdens. They are often angry and need to detoxify. Later, they can think in a rational way about what they can do to turn things around," she said.
Teachers stop in to give class assignments so students can prepare for their return to classes. Murray assists suspended students in getting their school work done and leads small group discussions for them. She also helps a student to set goals, for instance, to stop cutting classes for the next three weeks and then follows up to see how the student is progressing. The counselor can also intervene by helping a student mend a relationship with a teacher. Murray works with parents to help get a student back on track. Sometimes, a student is referred to a therapist because "there are emotional issues behind behavioral ones like acting out."
Some of the reasons students are suspended include skipping classes, not attending detention, insubordination, fighting, alcohol or drug use, theft, forging notes or cheating. A suspension can also occur when there is a pattern of behavior problems or a student has significantly disrupted the learning environment. Parents are called when a student is suspended, which can last from one to ten days, with the average being two to three days. During suspension, a student cannot attend any other school activities, such as clubs or athletics.
The program has significantly reduced the number of out-of-school suspensions at CCHS. There have been 114 suspensions so far this school year, with 86 of them in-house suspensions. Badalament said the 114 suspensions represent about 60 individuals out of the approximately 1,000 students at the high school.
Murray, who is in the first year of the program at the school, said, "I'm impressed by the amount of community involvement and support for kids here. There's a sincere desire by the community and school administration to reach out to students in trouble and provide a safe, healthful environment for them."
A school advisory council subcommittee on discipline had recommended in-house suspensions and development of a program as an alternative to standard suspension. Badalament believes the Planning Room is unique to CCHS as he is not aware of other schools with a similar program.
The Concord-Carlisle Community Chest provided the initial funding to get the program off the ground this year. It will be fully funded by the regional high school budget next year.
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