The Clay Community School Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve a pilot program with the input of the Clay County Classroom Teachers' Association, which would result in a court-administered form of school suspension.
The program is a mimic of the GRASP (Generating Responsibility Through an
Alternative to Suspension Placement) program in Putnam County and would involve Northview High School, Clay City High School, Cumberland Academy, the Clay County Prosecutors Office, Clay Community Corrections and Clay Circuit Court Judge Joseph D. Trout. The program is scheduled to be implemented at North Clay Middle School in the spring.
Assistant Supt. of Curriculum Kim Tucker, NHS Assistant Principal Lynn Romas and NHS Principal Tim Rayle presented the proposal to the board.
"It may need to be tweaked along the way," Tucker said. "It isn't an exact replica of the GRASP program, but it is a nice program that fits our county, our school system and our schools."
The goal of the program is to be a deterrent for suspension while still allowing students to get their homework done in a timely manner.
Members of Clay Community Corrections, administration from both high schools and North Clay visited Greencastle to observe the program.
Romas said when he suspends students, parents ask why, because the students look at it as a "vacation."
"This isn't a vacation," he said. "This is study time, directed study time, they receive help when studying and it is community service for our community."
One example is if a student were to get into a fight on a Monday, the parent would be called to pick up the child. At that time, the parent and student will be told to be in Judge Trout's courtroom at 8 a.m., Wednesday. The hearings are only scheduled to take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Judge Trout will visit with the parent and student and assign them to the program, and there is a $15 fee, which is handled through the courthouse. The parent is then in charge of taking their child to Cumberland Academy. An instructional assistant will be in place at Cumberland to help with homework and students will receive credit for completed homework. At noon, a representative of community corrections will pick up the students and take them to the work site determined by community corrections. There is a limit of 10 days that students can be in the program and students will be kept separate from adults. Students will be monitored at all times by a corrections employee.
"If a parent is instructed to appear before Judge Trout and they refuse, what happens," board member Terry Barr said at a recent school board meeting.
"I believe there is an Indiana code that says they will do this," Romas replied. "If they don't do that, then they can be held accountable."
Board member Dottie King also asked about the student getting into trouble Tuesday morning and not getting into see Judge Trout until Wednesday morning.
"What would happen to that missed day," she said.
"That would be one day where the student was in out-of-school suspension and they were at home," Romas said.
Though King agreed it is a great idea, she asked for caution so the discipline in the schools isn't turned over to law enforcement.
"We can make use of (law enforcement), but these are still our kids," she said.
Romas is hoping the program will be in place when school starts in August and plans to provide an update to the board after six months.
"Some of these things kids are doing is against the law," Romas said. "It is serious. To some of them, it is a vacation."