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Boys Town Partners with South High School for Suspension Services

Omaha South High School is the largest school in the state of Nebraska. More than 2,400 youth in grades 9-12 are part of the South High student body. Nearly 90 percent of those students qualify for free or reduced lunch. (source) “All of the factors are there for us to go in and make a change,” says Rafael Santa-Maria, Boys Town Community Engagement Developer.

Starting Monday, October 5, South High students in ninth and tenth grades who are placed on suspension will have the option of spending their suspension in a classroom setting at the Boys Town South Omaha office, which is located across the street from the high school.

The program is run by a South High teacher with support from Boys Town’s Director of Special Education and Transition Services, Dr. Tanya Martin, who serves as a special education teacher. Students will spend their day working on school work, with two to three additional opportunities to work on social skills using Boys Town’s Positive Alternatives to Suspension curriculum.

“This program is beneficial because it is targeted towards kids and families who aren’t already in the system and having the classroom at the South Omaha office exposes families to all of Boys Town’s other services,” says Dr. Martin.

The partnership between Boys Town and South High School is the first of its kind in the city of Omaha. It is aimed to help those kids who haven’t quite reached the bottom 10-20 percent and don’t qualify for intervention services.

“If we can get to those kids ‘in the middle’ and help them before they become truant, then that will make all the difference,” says Santa-Maria, who has played an integral part in developing Boys Town’s relationship with South High School.

In addition to attending class at the Boys Town South Omaha office, after a third suspension, a school liaison and social worker will get linked to the family to see if there are interventions that need to take place in the home. This will allow Boys Town to reach more families before they are in the system and provide help to ensure both the kids and their parents are successful. 

“Most kids who are on suspension, sit at home all day playing video games or get into trouble because there is either no structure in the home or their parents are unable to take off work to stay with them,” notes Santa-Maria. “There’s a very good reason why there is a correlation between high suspension rates and high crime rates.”

Both Dr. Martin and Rafael Santa-Maria are looking forward to seeing the results of this program and how it relates to Boys Town’s ultimate goal of changing communities.

“Skipping school becomes a problem in eighth grade and by eleventh grade it has become a habit,” says Dr. Martin. “If we can get to these kids in ninth and tenth grade before it becomes a habit, then we can get them on the path to success.”

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