Casey school board considers police officer, alternative school

December 15, 2003|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

LIBERTY - Casey County students who are likely to be suspended or expelled for being disruptive in the classroom, suspected of using or distributing drugs, or those with other problems may soon have more choices to remedy the problems.

The Board of Education will meet in special session at 7 p.m. Thursday at the administrative office to discuss an alternative placement program and/or hire a police officer for the high and middle schools.

Problems in the schools concern more than 20 students who repeatedly are sent to the principal's office. A couple of months after the fall semester began, the schools began calling in local police to help with problems, rather than deal with it within the schools.

Since January, Liberty Police Department has investigated 25 incidents, including disorderly conduct, assault, threatening, and possession of drugs and alcohol on school property.


Tim Goodlett, high school principal, checked 700 referrals, including tardy students, that were sent to his office. Twenty of the students have been in his office repeatedly since school opened in August, he said.

Having police come to the school and haul the kids out since Oct. 31 has stopped some of the problems, but school officials are not happy about losing kids to expulsion. They would rather keep them in school.

Steve Sweeney, who is in charge of the schools' Youth Services Center, suggested an alternative setting with an extremely structured atmosphere.

For those who need therapy, he suggested that 15 or less students can have the use of a certified therapist on duty all day, plus three adult instructors.

"What we spend to help a few kids also will help all children," said Sweeney, indicating there would be less disruption in the classroom.

If a student needs treatment, he or she has to be diagnosed by a mental health specialist. "I think we can easily pick out 15 kids who need help and are the most disruptive to be placed," said Sweeney.

Sweeney said the alternative school could begin as soon as next fall and that parents would have to be involved, too.

Terri Price, principal at the middle school, goes along with the idea. "If we had day care, it would make a difference. We already spend money on these kids."

The school system still has to educate the children if they are suspended for 10 days or sent to Saturday school. "You can win all the way around with an alternative school," Price said, adding that it could improve test scores.

An alternative school could help the students and take care of poor attendance, too, Price said.

Sweeney said he might be able to get a resource officer in the schools with the help of Casey Fiscal Court and the city of Liberty. "I'm talking about a certified police officer rather than a security guard or night watchman.

"If the school is willing to help out, the city and county may help finance an officer, including benefits, that could work in the city and county when school is not in session," Sweeney said. A grant may be available to help fund the position. "This would benefit the whole community," he said.

Price said the two proposals will help problem students most.

"We've got a bunch of kids failing life," she said.

Board Chairman Donald Sweeney wanted to know how soon the proposals could be put together.

Superintendent Linda Hatter said she could begin immediately. Goodlett said he would start the next day.

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