- Associated Press - Sunday, May 28, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A longtime afterschool program offers a nonjudgmental space for suspended students in Lincoln to gather, do homework and find adults who support them.

The Lincoln Board of Education approved a memorandum of understanding Tuesday to continue providing Lighthouse’s “Get Linked” program to students with out-of-school suspensions as long as there’s enough outside funding, the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/2qkBijU ) reported.

Lincoln High Principal Mark Larson partnered with Lighthouse Executive Director Bill Michener to use the five-week pilot program at the end of the school year as “restorative justice” to help suspended students. Students would come to Lighthouse, get lunch, work on homework and spend time talking about what they did wrong and how to repair the harm from it.

“We just do things differently at Lighthouse,” said Michener, who used $5,000 he found in juvenile justice funds to run the pilot program. “We meet them where they’re at, we don’t judge them, we build relationships with them. … It’s more like a family environment with a purpose.”

Larson said that out-of-school suspension is a problematic form of discipline because students who are already struggling end up falling farther behind and those with working parents are often left without supervision. He said research also shows kicking students out of school f a couple of days hurts student achievement, countering the idea that suspension is a consequence that makes students “learn their lesson.”

“I think we’ve found over time that doesn’t just magically happen,” he said. “The more students are suspended out of school, the more likely they are not to graduate.”

Larson said seven of the 11 students suspended during those five weeks took advantage of the program.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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