Highland News Leader

Regional Office of Education unveils program for troubled youth

From left, Chief Judge David Hylla, Regional Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Daiber and Sheriff John Lakin announce the “Give 30” youth mentoring program in Madison County.
From left, Chief Judge David Hylla, Regional Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Daiber and Sheriff John Lakin announce the “Give 30” youth mentoring program in Madison County. Courtesy photo

Suspending or expelling students is a problem school administrators have to address on a daily basis.

“The problem exists right here in Madison County. Every one of the 13 public school districts in the county are forced to suspend or expel students,” said Dr. Robert A. Daiber, Madison County regional superintendent of schools.

Last Thursday at the Madison County Administration Building, Daiber was joined by the county’s top two 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 youth 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 (ROE) will solicit 100 civic leaders and interested individuals to become Give 30 mentors and spend 30 minutes a 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. Give 30 is an in-school program that is linked to the discipline of at-risk-youth,” Daiber said. “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.”

Sheriff Lakin said that, during his career in law enforcement, it has been his experience that some youth reach a crossroads while they are in school.

“And it’s not just in high school. Even kids in junior high can be faced with a decision of doing what is right, or what is wrong,” Lakin said. “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 be that way, Lakin said.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Judge Hylla said it is important members of the community do what they can to help troubled youth 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.”

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, Hylla said.

“It is in school where they receive some semblance of order, where they can obtain the necessary knowledge to make something of themselves,” Hylla said. “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 Give 30 program being implemented by the Madison County Regional Office of Education takes on greater significance as Senate Bill 100 takes effect on Sept. 15, 2016. 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 ROE 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.”

About the “Give 30” program

▪ 100 civic leaders and interested individuals will be solicited as mentors for troubled youth

▪ Mentors will spend 30 minutes a week talking with a student

▪ Mentoring will take place at school

▪ Students will have been identified by school officials, police or the court as “heading in a direction.”