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Zero-tolerance policy to end in Illinois schools

Illinois will end zero-tolerance disciplinary policies in schools across the state, opting instead to find alternatives to help at-risk students complete their ...

The graduation rate for United Township High School reached an all time high last year of 90 percent. Superintendent Jay Morrow contributes that success to one major factor, paying special attention to at-risk students.

"We put a variety of things in place to help those at risk kids, and our teachers are really taking that to heart as well," says Morrow.

UT now has a new program for those particular students. If a student is younger than 16 and is expelled, they have a program set up to continue classes online.

This all comes as a new Illinois law is set to begin next school year. It will limit out-of-school suspensions and end the zero-tolerance policy.

"Zero-tolerance, one size fits all, it can't work. It doesn't work," says Michelle Hammond, the principal of Bethany Blackhawk Phoenix Program.   The program is an alternative school option for students with special educational needs, and students with emotional and behavioral problems.

Hammond says students tend to fall behind if they are taken out of school with nowhere to go to learn.

"Kids who are suspended a lot of days, they start failing classes. They don't keep up with their peers, and those kids tend to drift away eventually," says Hammond.

And while schools in the area are being proactive about keeping kids in school, this new law will help send the message to the rest of the state.

"Overall, state-wide, it will really put an emphasis on additional alternative education for our students," says Morrow.

The law will also focus on bullying issues in schools and require schools to adopt a parent-teacher advisory board on school discipline.