What high schools say about Safe Schools

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William Cheatham,

disciplinarian, Manley

One of the four students who returned from a safe school this year “is still a habitual behavior problem,” he says. By January, the boy had been suspended for profanity and threatening a staff member. Cheatham says the boy’s mother and uncle told him they believe he wants to return to the safe school. The alternative school “worked well” for the other three students. Since their return, only one has broken a rule: He didn’t wear the required dress shirt to school one day.

Elizabeth Rolander,

assistant principal, Mather

Only one expelled student sent to a safe school has returned. “He had a lot of truancy and seems to be attending on a more regular basis, which leads to more academic success.” She says the faculty hoped the program would serve as a deterrent, “but because we have had so few, I don’t know that the concept is widespread in the student body.”

James Patrick,

dean of freshman and sophomore

students, South Shore

He says behavior has improved at South Shore because it has consistently used the expulsion and principal referral processes. “It worked for us because kids know what they can do or can’t do. … Their friends have been sent to those schools.” Hanging in his office is a sign reading, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” Patrick says he tells students, “You had better not become the few or the one.” He also has seen improvement in returning students. “Some students who were way behind with credits, slowly have been able to catch up at the alternative school.”

George Lynch,

dean of students, Kelly

Of about six students they have sent to safe schools, four have come back. One, a senior, graduated. The others were freshman and sophomores and eventually dropped out.

“I see them riding around with the gangs. … Other students, when they see some of their friends actually put out, it puts a little fear into their hearts.”

Sherwin Bulmash,

assistant principal, Amundsen

The zero tolerance policy and removing disruptive students from the school are “changing the tone in the school,” he says. As of December, Amundsen had about eight expulsion hearings and had referred an additional two or three for disruptive behavior. Two expelled students were scheduled to return the last week in January. Bulmash says he’s seeing “less severe problems” this year.

“The kids are getting the message.”

David Boon,

assistant principal, Hyde Park

He says that students who return from safe schools “usually do not get into any more trouble.” So far, Hyde Park has had 10 return. Most of the school’s students are aware of the safe schools program, he says, but are not “specifically afraid of it.”

Bill Hayes, dean,

Curie

“[The program] has a positive effect for us as a safety valve. … An individual kid can cause a lot of trouble with his repetitious bad behavior. We avoid chaos by getting them out of here immediately.” While most students are not aware of the Safe Schools Program, disruptive students can see “that their buddies are gone.”

Nathaniel Mason,

principal, Harper

“I would have to say I have seen a change,” he says. None of Harper’s returning students has “participated in any acts that would require additional expulsion.” Mason also sees safe schools as a deterrent. “The marginal student is impacted. Most students are about doing the right thing, and when they know there is a consequence, they will do the right thing.”

Linda Pierzchalski,

principal, Bogan

“[The safe schools program] gives me an option I didn’t have before. I appreciate it. Taking the disruptive students out of the school means they don’t influence other freshmen, for example,” who might follow their example. Two students have returned this school year from safe schools, and Pierzchalski sees a difference in their behavior: fewer disciplinary incidents and no suspensions.