ECHS unveils OCS program

Published 9:05 am Wednesday, May 18, 2005

By by Lee Weyhrich
Escambia County High School is expanding its On Campus Suspension (OCS) program to be more than just a holding tank for offenders.
"It's the same thing as the OCS," Escambia School Board Superintendent Melvin "Buck" Powell said. "It's kind of a dropout prevention program too. We do community service with it too."
Friday, Gov. Bob Riley's office announced that it had awarded $81,443 to the Escambia County Board of Education for the program which it says "holds juvenile offenders accountable for their actions, helps them to overcome their problems and encourages them to complete their education."
"This program helps troubled juveniles curb behaviors that could lead to dropping out of school and participating in further criminal activities," Riley said in a prepared statement. "I commend Escambia County officials for giving students a second chance and encouraging them to become productive members of society."
The program attempts to teach youths to be productive while punishing them for what they have done. The program has been at W.S. Neal High School for a year.
"Our program has been very successful at Neal High school and we just want to model the program and continue it at Atmore," attendance and community education coordinator for the county, Donna Revel said. "Basically this is the second year of the grant. We included Escambia County High School in the grant this year. The program offers dropout prevention activities and counseling, academic emphasis, individual counseling and remediation for the high school exit exam. The community service programs are ongoing, we're working with the juvenile probation office and we have other partnerships."
Computers will be installed into the in-school suspension classrooms to help in the educational process.
"They will be set up with computers and programs to aid them with the graduation exam," Powell said. "They'll do some community work, they'll do some work for the school and they have to complete their class work too."
This program will allow students to take their punishment in a productive way rather than from the couch at home, on the streets or even in a traditional OCS program where the student would merely sit in a room all day.
"This will keep kids from being suspended from school," Revel said. "This is going to be more than an at-school suspension program. With this program they will also receive instruction. This will not just be a holding tank for children in in-school suspension."
The program is even more than a "learning" OCS.
"The program also allows kids to make amends for negative behavior by having counseling and remediation instruction for at-risk kids," Revel said. "We want to work with these kids. We don't want to have the current practice of out of school suspension. When students are suspended for negative behavior they risk losing credit for a class. By leaving them in school it gives an alternative to suspension and expulsion for the school."
Remediation would be based on a "punishment fits the crime" basis.
"If they destroyed something in the park they would be in the park cleaning up," Powell said. "They just do community service. Neal has had a lot of success with it."
A lot of the program's success depends on whether or not the student actually wants to be helped.
"If they want to be help they can be helped," Powell said. "If a kid says, 'I want to make it up let me take care of it,' or those kids that say 'don't suspend me I want to graduate,' we can help them. We're just excited about it (the program). Hopefully we can do some things on Saturdays and after school that will help these kids be more successful in school."

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