|Published:||Jul 11, 2012 10:56 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Jul 11, 2012 10:56 PM EDT|
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Rising violence in Fort Myers has school officials questioning whether the district is doing enough to curb youth crime.
School board member Don Armstrong is asking questions about Lee County's Alternative Learning Centers. With violence becoming more prevalent in the city, he says he isn't sure the school system is doing enough to prevent it.
"It saddens me in a lot of different ways. I think we need to get it before it gets to the Sheriff's Office or the Fort Myers Police Department," says Armstrong.
Armstrong has asked for data on which students are being sent to ALC's, and for what violations. He also wants to know whether they eventually drop out or repeatedly cycle through the program.
"It's 60 days, 90 days, then they're back into the school system, and to me it's almost like a revolving door. I've heard some kids going there 2 or 3 times throughout the year," says Armstrong.
Bill Naylor is with the Lee County Juvenile Assessment Center, which processes teens who've been arrested. He says some are eventually referred to an alternative school.
"I believe it does curb some stuff," says Naylor. "Theres a lot of kids, a large majority that want to go forward to college or the military, and they don't want to have that status of having ALC on their record."
Naylor says the program has its benefits, like services for addiction recovery and gang reduction, but he thinks a stronger focus on career preparation is needed.
"A large majority of the kids we deal with on probation may have a very large automotive background, they may be interested in computers, but when they get that book everything shuts down," says Naylor.
Armstrong thinks a larger overhaul might be necessary.
"It's a continuous problem. So we try to put them there and try to find them help, but I'm not sure if that's helping them," says Armstrong.
The JAC says overall criminal cases involving teens have dropped by a thousand since 2007, but the number of teens facing adult charges, typically for violent crimes, has almost doubled. The center says Lee County had 577 student arrests last year, with Lee County ALC Central having one of the highest number of arrests of all the schools.
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