Building Adolescents To Successful Empowerment

The Suspension Solution

School districts all over the country are struggling to reduce the staggering number of dropouts. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over the last decade, between 347,000 and 544,000 10th through 12th grade students left school each year without successfully completing a high school program. The national dropout rate for the 2006-07 school years was as high as 54%. Additionally, data released in July 2008 by the California Department of Education showed that nearly 14 percent of Pasadena Unified School District students dropped out during the 2006-07 school year. The information showed that the highest number of dropouts occurred in the 9th and 12th grades. While some factors associated with dropout rates, like poverty, are beyond the reach of district policy, others like chronic absenteeism and behavior issues are not. Students begin to disengage from school in their early teens. A prevention and intervention program targeting truancy and behavior during these fundamental school years is a key period in which to offer these programs.

PUSD adheres to the State of California Education Code on the reasons for suspension and the amount of time the student is to remain at home. However, staying at home is not usually a serious consequence and can become a bad habit. In many cases, students at home are unsupervised, with opportunities to watch television and play video games or do worse on the streets. As PUSD works aggressively to reform elementary and middle schools, it is time to change where students go when they are suspended. There needs to be a serious consequence for truancy and misbehavior, one that fosters discipline, leadership, and character and deters these behaviors at school.

Sarges Community Base proposes as an alternative to at-home suspension, a program in which students are required to attend Commit II Achieve Life Skills Training Program. This program would be adapted from the existing Life Skills Training Program concept but would consist of a four-hour program tailored to middle school students.

Commit II Achieve Life Skills Training Program

Commit II Achieve Life Skills Training Program encourages the development of character in teenage boys and girls and enables them to become healthy, successful young citizens. The program focuses on children who demonstrate behaviors including: truancy, bad attitude, defiance, disrespectfulness, deviance (lying and cursing), laziness, and lack of motivation. Sarges Community Base has been a prominent entity in helping local at-risk youth and juvenile offenders enrich their lives through the Commit II Achieve Life Skills Training Program. This program offers its participants a comprehensive curriculum which includes an academic component focused primarily on language arts and math. All students enrolled in our program will be held to the same standard of education required by law as a typically enrolled middle school student. In addition, mentoring, discipline drills, physical training and conditioning, anger management, self development, life skills, gang prevention and intervention, self- esteem reinforcement, and leadership training will be implemented.

Specifically designed for youths between the ages of 5 and 14, the Commit II Achieve program is an intensive Life Skills Training Program that can be held during or after school hours and on Saturdays. Highly trained staff and certified educators help direct the program, which challenges students both mentally and physically.

The mentorship component of the Commit II Achieve program will expose participants to various careers and will work to guide each student on a path that leads toward higher education. Through this program, students are taught self-discipline and confidence through drills that combine verbal motivation and military style-training techniques. As a result of Sarge’s core curriculum, students will acquire stronger leadership and teamwork skills, improve focus, and gain self-motivation.

Alternative to Suspension Program

Working with the principals through the Alternative to Suspension Program, Sarges Community Base will develop a program for elementary and middle school students, who are suspended, and would be required to report to the Life Skills Training Program, which would be conducted every school day at a School campus or gymnasium.

Students would be required to dress in gray sweats, tennis shoes, and gray tops and report promptly at 8:00. Students would participate in academics, physical, leadership, and character development activities until 12:00. The program would be staffed by a qualified credentialed teacher and a physical training instructor. This staff could cover up to 15 students. After the first 15 students, another staff member would be added.

Cost to District: Lost Average Daily Attendance (ADA) or Safe School Grant would pay for the program.