Petersburg School District creates alternative to out-of-school suspensions

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 11:39 PM EST
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PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - In Petersburg, school leaders took action on a new plan to prevent students from getting suspended from school. It’s called “Now 3.0″. The goal is to make sure students who get in trouble get time to focus and recover from their actions with the help of trained professionals while still getting the opportunity to learn at school.

It will be for middle and high school students. Parents will have to agree to have their students participate. School leaders say now is the time to do something different to give students who need it a fighting chance.

At Vernon Johns Middle School, there have been 42 fights this school year alone; 114 students have been suspended since September.

Most of them involved fights with minor injuries, which is what school leaders want to avoid.

“We’re trying to save our kids. We’re just trying to save them,” said Pam Bell with Petersburg Schools.

She unveiled a plan to the school board Thursday to essentially get rid of out-of-school suspension for fights. Instead, the students would still report to a school site with continued instruction and even counseling.

“Many times, students don’t even know why they were in a fight. Someone looked at them the wrong way. They felt the peer pressure of it all, and they don’t realize the damage it has on their record, on their transcript,” she said.

In the program, students will get to think about their actions and how to avoid repeating them. School leaders didn’t need a lot of convincing to move forward; it passed unanimously.

“I really like whatever we can do to keep them from being in the streets…Conflict resolution and helping them with the problems because if you’re angry, mad, hurt or upset, you’re not going to be learning anyway,” board member Lois Long said.

That’s the goal: Keep students in school.

“We want them to keep learning, and what are they getting when they get home?” Bell said.

Petersburg leaders took a look at what some other school districts were doing in the area and the nation. They tweaked it and made this program unique for them. The goal is to begin hiring about four new staff members dedicated to the program, which could start as early as January.

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