2005-03-11 / Editorial/Opinion

A Suspension Center To Address Disruptive Kids

A little more than a year ago, The Wave ran a front page story heralding the opening of the first “Second Opportunity School,” better known as suspension centers, to address the problem of disruptive students in the peninsula’s high schools and middle schools. The only problem was, the school, slated for Beach 115 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, never opened. Suffice it to say that it did not open because of a dispute between Region Five Superintendent Kathleen Cashin and the community-based organization that was contracted to run the program because organization founders complained about some of the superintendent’s other plans for Rockaway schools. Since that time, there have been several band-aid programs to address the problems of kids who disrupt the education of others, who bring weapons to school, who set fires, who rob and beat other students. One such program is the after-school program at Beach Channel High School that brings the disruptive kids into the building after all the other kids are gone for the day. There are similar programs in other parts of the peninsula. They are too little, too late. What Rockaway needs is a central suspension program that takes the disruptive students from their buildings and keeps them away until they have learned that education takes commitment and discipline. Moving kids from a school and putting them back two weeks later or, worse, moving them from building to building, is no solution to the deep problem most of our schools have in dealing with the small percentage of students who will not allow the others to get a decent education. We have often suggested that the program be housed at MS 198, a little-used school in the central part of the peninsula. Now that a high school magnet program is reportedly coming to the building, however, that is no longer an option. Perhaps the High School magnet health careers program could be moved to Middle School 53, which is seeing its use fall precipitously because most of its feeder schools are becoming kindergarten to eighth grade organization. That would leave MS 198 free for a suspension center. In any case, a center is needed and needed quickly. There are just too many disruptive students allowed to roam our schools, destroying the hopes of everybody else.

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