(From left) Chief Judge David Hylla, Regional Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Daiber and Sheriff John Lakin.
EDWARDSVILLE — During the 2011-2012 school year, more than 272,000 students in Illinois’ public schools were suspended. Another 2,400 students were expelled and more than 10,000 students were arrested by law enforcement officials.
According to Dr. Robert A. Daiber, the problem of student suspensions and expulsions is not limited to Chicago or the more troubled cities in Illinois.
“The problem exists right here in Madison County,” he said. “Every one of the 13 public school districts in the county is forced to suspend or expel students; it’s a problem school administrators have to address on a daily basis.”
On Thursday at the Madison County Administration Building, Daiber was joined by the county’s two top law enforcement officials, Sheriff John D. Lakin and David A. Hylla, chief judge of the Third Judicial Circuit Court, to announce a new project, Give 30, a mentoring program that addresses the issue of student suspensions and expulsions, and provides at-risk youths in Madison County with positive support.
“Give 30 is designed for students who have been identified by school officials as heading in a direction that could lead to an arrest by one of Sheriff Lakin’s deputies, a courtroom appearance before Judge Hylla, or at the very least suspension or expulsion from school,” Daiber said.
Daiber said Give 30 is a mentoring program. The Regional Office of Education will solicit 100 civic leaders and interested individuals to become Give 30 mentors and spend 30 minutes per week talking with the student they will be mentoring.
“Give 30 is not an out-of-school mentoring program such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters,” he said. “Give 30 is an in-school program that is linked to the discipline of at-risk youth. Mentors will meet with students in a controlled school environment to discuss issues the students are facing and provide guidance. It’s a program to get troubled kids back on the right path.”
Lakin said during his law enforcement career, it has been his experience that some youths reach a crossroads while they are in school.
“It’s not just in high school,” he said. “Even kids in junior high can be faced with a decision of doing what is right, or what is wrong. If for whatever reason they make the wrong decision, and follow that up with another bad decision, it can negatively impact the rest of their lives. But it doesn’t have to. Just because a kid makes the wrong decision doesn’t mean they can’t get back on the right path, and that’s where Give 30 comes in. If this program and being able to talk to a mentor can positively impact even one student it will be worthwhile, but I expect the program will actually benefit a significant number of our youth.”
Hylla said it’s important members of the community do what they can to help troubled youths mature, lead honest lives and become contributing members of society.
“Unfortunately, many of the youth that are forced to appear in our courtrooms share a common denominator; they have received little, if any, adult guidance in their lives,” he said.
“The students who are being suspended or expelled are the very students who should be kept within the school environment unless they impose a danger or threat to the school. It is in school where they receive some semblance of order, where they can obtain the necessary knowledge to make something of themselves. But that doesn’t mean they can be a disruptive presence that negatively impacts other students. The challenge of the Give 30 program and participating mentors is to encourage those students to re-engage in school. Expulsions and suspensions should only be a last resort to address these students.”
The importance of the program being implemented by the Regional Office of Education takes on greater significance as Senate Bill 100 takes effect on Sept. 15. The bill prohibits publicly funded Illinois schools from using “zero tolerance” discipline policies that result in out-of-school suspensions or expulsions, unless otherwise required by law.
The Regional Office of Education will pilot Give 30 this spring at the county’s alternative school in Troy to review the practice of in-school mentors.
“As SB 100 becomes law, Give 30 offers school districts a discipline intervention prior to reoccurring suspensions or an expulsion,” Daiber said. “We need to do what we can for our troubled youth.”