Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Looks South for Idea on Suspensions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Looks South for Idea on Suspensions

Article excerpt

Educators want to know if a program run by Lee County that keeps

students off the streets while they serve out-of-school

suspensions could work in Clay County.

Lee County's 2-year-old suspension program has cost $356,000 and

has served 1,000 students, said Lee County Sheriffs' Deputy Bob

Sneddon, who coordinates the program.

"Why they do external suspensions anywhere is so stupid," said

Martha Torgerson, executive assistant to Lee County

Commissioner Ray Judah. She and Judah served on a panel of

judges, educators police officers and citizens who came up with

the alternative-suspension program.

Since 1990, Clay has suspended about 2,000 students a year, with

a high of 2,867 in 1994-95, district figures show.

Clay County has in-school suspensions for students who

repeatedly break school rules such as using profanity toward

other students, said Beth Powell, assistant principal at

Ridgeview Junior High.

More serious disciplinary problems such as fighting can land a

student with a 10-day suspension and repeat offenders are often

sent to R.C. Bannerman Educational Learning Center, educators

said.

In Lee County, the suspended student serves up to 10 days in a

class supervised by deputies. Since the program began, officials

have seen school attendance rates climb while daytime crime

statistics have declined, she said.

"We want borderline kids," Sneddon said of the students, who do

school work and get counseling. "We want those with whom we can

made a difference."

The Lee County Commission, sheriff's department and school

district support the program, organizers said.

"It's working so far," Lee County Deputy Tim Hetz said of the

1,000 pupils in the program, 75 percent of whom have been

suspended only once since the project started.

"It just grew out of a situation where we had so many kids

suspended and they didn't go anywhere," Hetz said.

Clay Superintendent Phyllis May said she read an article on the

program while visiting Fort Myers over Christmas and has briefed

Sheriff Scott Lancaster about it.

"It sounds like it might have some merit," Lancaster said. …

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