Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pittsburgh Public Schools to Offer Drug, Alcohol Counseling to Students New Program Seen as Alternative to Suspensions

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pittsburgh Public Schools to Offer Drug, Alcohol Counseling to Students New Program Seen as Alternative to Suspensions

Article excerpt

It used to be that when students were busted for pot possession on school property, they would be suspended for up to 10 days and then return for classes at the Student Achievement Center, the district's alternative school.

But in an effort to reduce a rising number of marijuana incidents and resultant suspensions, Pittsburgh Public Schools is trying something different this year.

Now, if students are found with fewer than 5 grams of marijuana and it's their first time violating the drug section of the student conduct code, they will have the option of receiving drug and alcohol counseling during a 10-day program at the Student Achievement Center before they are allowed to return to class at their regular school.

The change is meant to combine the consequence with additional services to prevent the violation from happening again, as well as a push to limit the amount of time students are removed from their classrooms, said David May-Stein, the district's chief of school performance.

"We're very optimistic that this will provide an additional level of support to students that we weren't providing in the past," Mr. May-Stein said. "We hope that students and families will take advantage of this opportunity and learn. We're very optimistic that this is going to be a solid strategy to keep kids in school, to keep them in class in front of their teachers."

The school district is partnering with Three Rivers Youth to install a full-time drug and alcohol counselor at the SAC in Homewood, as well as a part-time "parent specialist" to work as a liaison among the district, Three Rivers Youth and the families of students in the program. The district recently formalized the arrangement in the form of $113,000 contract for this school year.

"They're excited about it; we're excited about it," said Peggy Harris, executive director of Three Rivers Youth. "I will say that the work that we do will certainly go much deeper with parents. We believe that is one of the critical components to sustaining whatever we do with young people."

Ms. Harris said the new partnership with PPS is an expansion of her organization's footprint in Pittsburgh schools. …

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