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RCPS partners with juvenile justice
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Rockdale County Public Schools and the Department of Juvenile Justice will partner ih a school-based probation program to provide probation officers in schools to help monitor teens that have run into the law. 

Director of Support Services Dr. Garrett Brundage described the partnership during a review of initiatives the school system was taking to address student discipline during Thursday's school board session.

Brundage reported that DJJ will provide two probation officers housed directly in two schools - one at the Alpha Academy and one at Heritage High School. The officer at Heritage will also monitor Rockdale County High School students. A probation officer will visit Salem High School but will not be based at the school.

He estimated about 70 students in RCPS were under juvenile court-ordered probation, or less than half of 1 percent of the student population. Many of these incidents occured outside of school, Brundage pointed out.

For serious in-school infractions that reached the level of a formal RCPS tribunal or waiver, the school system reported 91 cases during the 2011-2012 school year, or about half of one percent of the student population. That's compared to 89 for 2010-2011, 87 for 2009-2010, 77 for 2008-2009, and 93 for 2007-2008. These figures didn't include lesser punshinments such as in-school suspentions of 10 days or less, which don't require a tribunal.

Other initiatives included a comprehensive report review by Support Services of discipline cases every nine weeks.

Brundage also described reviewing with principals at individual schools the frequency of discipline cases and individuals who "might need to placed alternatively," such as at the RCPS Alpha Academy. He also emphasized spelling out clear behavior expectations to the students and bringing in available support services and programs. 

"We want to focus on changing the students," he said, but also "clearly outline expectations."

Part of the focus includes a case management team and a smoother, quicker transition for the student to the Alpha Academy, if needed, and back from Alpha to the home school. Student cases at the Alpha Academy would be reviewed at the end of each semester with involvement from the home school, said Brundage.

Superintendent Rich Autry said he was a strong proponent for giving students support in the schools but, "We don't have time for foolishness. We don't have time for disrespect of adults or disrespect of peers." 

However, he pointed out, "It's easy to kick kids out of school. It's harder to keep kids in school." Keeping kids in the schools might mean alternative placements, he said.


School uniforms/Dress code

Board member Don McKinney asked about the survey and discussion about school uniforms that took place last year. 

The survey on school uniforms/dress code saw about 8,700 responses out of almost 16,000 students, according to figures presented by Community Relations Director Cindy Ball last February. Of those, about 60 percent of the responses were in favor of uniforms and about 21 percent in favor of some sort of standard dress. About 81 percent were in favor of some kind of clothing requirement change while about 15 percent were opposed to clothing requirement change but possibly in favor of some sort of dress code change.

The decision was made by previous superintendent Dr. Samuel King to tackle the dress code at the individual school level, said Autry. "I visited every high school on the first day and three times since... I've been generally pleased," said Autry. He said he saw significant improvement in dress standards in the high schools compared to three years ago.

A few schools such as Peeks Chapel Elementary and CJ Hicks Elementary have voluntary school uniform-type dress codes.

Board member Jean Yontz asked about the effects of changes last year to the discipline procedure that held parents accountable as well.

"It all depends on the parent," said Autry. "It has to be a partnership." He said while the majority of parents do care about their children's behavior and performance, the schools had little leverage with the ones that don't. 


Mandatory child abuse reporting for school volunteers

School volunteers, and not just faculty and staff, will now also be required by state law to report any signs of child abuse they see. 

The Rockdale school board will vote next week on changes to their policy to reflect the changes in the state law. 

Volunteers will be required to sign a document reviewing the child abuse reporting requirements and principals will meet and review the requirements as well, said Brundage.