According to the Pennsylvania Code, children between the ages of 8 and 17, who haven't graduated high school, must receive state-approved schooling in a public, private or home-school program. While public schools are a traditional route for many families, sometimes a child must attend an alternative program. Alternative disciplinary schools are often the last stop for troubled kids in Pennsylvania who suffer from behavioral issues or are expelled from prior public or private schools.
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Reasons and Background
Like many states across the U.S., Pennsylvania has its fair share of disciplinary problems when it comes to kids in public schools. The School District of Philadelphia's 2008 Discipline Placement Update shows that there were over 1,000 alleged infractions in one year including assaults on staff and students, drug and alcohol offenses and weapons. While some parents may choose to remove their troubled child from school, it is often the school's, or district's, enforcement of disciplinary codes that results in expulsion and the need for an alternative school. For example, Pennsylvania's Conestoga valley School District's disciplinary code states that children who have serious infractions or actions against other people or property may require, depending on the severity of the action, an alternative learning program.
The road to an alternative disciplinary school in the state of Pennsylvania isn't a straight and narrow path. Depending on area or district, some schools have differing ways of judging if the student must attend a disciplinary program and how this happens. For example, the School District of Philadelphia has Alternative Educational Regional Centers to help families decide on the proper placement to meet the child's needs. According to the Pennsylvania Public School Code students subject to any disciplinary actions -- including those requiring an alternative school -- are entitled to due process. This may include a school board hearing or other formal evaluation. Additionally, schools must determine if the troubled child qualifies as a special education student when determining disciplinary alternative education possibilities.
PA Education Law for Disruptive Youth
The Pennsylvania Department of Education maintains guidelines, through the laws in the PA Code, for the "Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth." These laws govern programs that provide alternative disciplinary education to ensure that they offer an adequate level of both academic and behavioral support and services to the children that they serve. The "Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth" laws states that alternative education programs within Pennsylvania school districts may operate during normal school hours, or outside those hours including Saturdays. Other laws included in this part of the PA Code govern the school's curriculum and behavioral or special education services for students in need such as counseling.
Some school districts in Pennsylvania maintain their own alternative educational programs for troubled kids, while others rely on outside sources including private and government-funded programs. If a school doesn't offer its own specific disciplinary program of education, troubled students may find a school through a state or county educational entity such as an intermediate unit. There are 29 intermediate units in the state, each collaborating with localized districts to provide specialized support and programs. For example, Pennsylvania's Intermediate Unit 1 maintains alternative schools for discipline cases in Greene, Fayette and Washington counties. There are also more than a dozen private boarding schools in Pennsylvania, including Valley Forge Military Academy and the Phelps School, which offer structured learning environments for troubled kids.