Opportunity knocks close to the local jail

Jon Marcus

Teachers in one American school district need no longer tell their most disruptive pupils what will happen to them if they do not follow the rules. Now they can simply point out of the window.

Union County in North Carolina has opened a special classroom for the district's most problematic students, barely two metres away from the barbed-wire fence of the local jail.

"The location was intended to send a very strong message," said schools superintendent Cliff Dodson: "You've got to be able to live in an environment of laws if you want to have a decent life."

About 25 students who continually swear, fight or harass their classmates will be transferred to what the district describes as the "Opportunity School". In addition to traditional courses, they will study conflict resolution and anger management; deputy sheriffs have volunteered to act as mentors to the students between shifts at the jail.

The cost of the project is about Pounds 40,000. If successful, Mr Dodson said, a second classroom will be added next year and the number of students increased to 50. He said school districts nationwide have called to ask about the concept.

Youngsters who continue to disrupt the class will be detained in the reception area of the jail, which houses about 120 inmates awaiting trial on charges ranging from forgery to murder.

"The message is, 'I'd better get my act together now, or that might be my place of residence in the future'," said Mr Dodson.

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Jon Marcus

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