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Program aims to keep kids from getting kicked out of school | News

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Program aims to keep kids from getting kicked out of school

NORTH LAS VEGAS -- There may be a racial divide when it comes to disciplining kids at Clark County Schools. According to the latest numbers, by the U.S. Department of Education-- African American students are suspended at higher rates in Clark County.

African American students make up about 12 percent of all students in the classroom in the county, but they account for more than 25 percent of suspensions. About 40 percent of the students suspended are Hispanic. The 40 percent is proportionate to the number of Hispanic students in local classrooms.

However, white and Asian students have significantly lower suspension rates.

CCSD has decided to take action and address the issue, but some say, the district's new plan could jeopardize the future of other students.

Swainston Middle School is trying something different when it comes to kids who act up in class. Instead of booting the troublemakers from the classroom, Swainston Middle has decided to keep those kids in class. The school said it wants to help the kids work through any issues that might be causing them to act out.

A'niyah Redden is one of the students who benefited from Swainston Middle's new policy. The eight grader received a second chance through the HOPE Squared Class.

HOPE Squared stands for Heightening Opportunities and Providing Enhanced education.

Mauricio Marin. 8 News NOW Reporter: "Did you want to go into that class when they first enrolled you in it?"

A'niyah: "No."

Marin: "Why didn't you want to go?"

A'niyah: "Because I thought it was just for bad kids. I know I'm bad, but I don't want to be in class with other bad kids."

In the HOPE Squared program, the classes are small, and the program is designed to let kids talk about issues that could get them into trouble.

"Kids want to be right all the time and I always wanted to help them and make them understand that for every action there is a consequence. Whether it's good or bad you have to be accountable for your actions," said Ronda Richard, HOPE Squared teacher.

Swainston Middle's principal Lori Desiderato started the program because she said she felt a suspension wasn't always the answer.

"At the beginning of the school year you could see the kids weren't behaving appropriately. They were more vocal in terms of answering the teachers back, and their grades were not as they are now," Desiderato said.

Since entering the HOPE Squared class, A'niyah says she's learning and doesn't argue with teachers as much as she used to. A'niyah's progress has even put her on a successful path. She's been accepted into three competitive magnet high schools.

Administrators say that might not have happened if HOPE Squared wasn't around.

"This class makes a huge difference because if she had been written up, and sent to the dean's office the way she was in the past, she probably wouldn't have been accepted into the program," said Desiderato.

A'niyah says she focused and will take what she has learned with her to high school.

"Growing up my whole family has gotten a high school diploma and I know I'm going to get a high school diploma and I'm going to go to college," A'niyah said.

The HOPE Squared classes have been divided into two groups: boys and girls. There are about 70 schools in CCSD that have similar programs.

The programs are funded with money that was specifically set aside to keep students from getting kicked out of school. Schools have to pitch their program to get funding.