New local school program helps bring down numbers of suspended students

Life Push helps school systems suspension rate go down by 63-percent

The Alternative Suspension Center launched two months ago in Amherst County. 

AMHERST, Va. – Darrius Bethel works with Life Push, an organization that helps at-risk youth in the area.

He and several others play a role in helping Amherst County Public Schools address its out-of-school suspension numbers.

“We got our suspensions down to about 50 percent from where they were, but we couldn’t get below that number,” said  Dr. William Wells, assistant superintendent, said.

The school system recently created a pilot program called the Alternative Suspension Center. 
Instead of suspending students for days and sending them home for disrespectful or inappropriate behavior, school leaders send them to the center for counseling.

“Once they see that you care about them as a person rather than their behavior, they’re not used to that, things change quick,” Bethel said.

In just two months the suspension rate was reduce by 63 percent. 

“It’s something that we needed. I’m glad the school board agreed to support it and fund it. It’s been a good program for us. I think the students have gained from it. That’s the main thing, we’re here for the students,” Wells said.

“As far as I’m concerned right now we haven’t had a repeat offender,” said Lantz Martin, assistant principal at Monelison Middle School.

The program has served a little over 50 students who are still counted as present in school and are kept up-to-date with assignments. The goal is to give the students a better outlook and not come back to the program.

“Who the credit goes to is really not important as long as these kids are getting serviced. That’s what’s important,” Bethel said.