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3 Lecanto students expelled

Three Lecanto High School students with especially bad disciplinary records have been expelled and dozens of other Citrus students who have caused problems have been referred to the district's new alternative classrooms.

The School Board this week decided on the expulsions and got their first report on how the alternative program has worked in its first few weeks in place.

The first two expulsions were of 10th graders who were involved in an altercation at a Citrus High School sporting event.

One student had already been suspended and was barred from going onto the Citrus High grounds. The other had an extensive list of past discipline problems.

They were expelled for the rest of this school year and all of the 1995-96 year. Each also was given the chance to re-enter school through the adult education program in the second semester of this year with a parent request.

The second student also must go through some special classes and counseling because his involvement in the incident may have been alcohol-related, according to School Board attorney Richard "Spike" Fitzpatrick.

A 17-year-old senior at Lecanto with an extensive disciplinary history and who battered another student also was expelled for the remainder of the year with the opportunity to go through some counseling and re-enter the Withlacoochee Technical Institute or the adult education program.

A fourth expulsion hearing scheduled for Tuesday's meeting was continued at the request of the parents who are challenging the action. That hearing will come before the board Nov. 22.

The board agreed to hire the law firm Haag, Gaffney and Wilcox to represent them in the action since Fitzpatrick will act as prosecutor in that proceeding.

These were this school year's first expulsions. Last year, 10 students were expelled.

School Board members also were updated on the start of the alternative classrooms at Lecanto and Crystal River high schools and Lecanto, Crystal River and Inverness middle schools.

While the programs are waiting for portable classrooms to be set up, administrators reported that plenty of students already were assigned to the program, which targets students with discipline problems or who disrupt regular classrooms.

Once the alternative classrooms are in full swing, the students will be separated from the rest of the student population for their entire day.

Each high school program has 20 students, according to Crystal River High School assistant principal Tony Whitehead.

"We're trying to be positive toward these kids to get them back on the right track," Whitehead told the board.

Crystal River Middle School Principal David Hickey said the new programs mesh well with the middle school philosophy "you have to reach them before you teach them."

The middle school programs, which have averaged between 13 and 17 pupils, are aimed at intervention, preparing the pupils to fit back in the mainstream classroom, helping their self images and making the school environment safer for all students, Hickey said.

The various alternative programs have been tailored for each school's needs, but they all offer some sort of positive point system that allows students to exit and some sort of committee in charge of placing students in the program.

"All of the middle schools and the high schools are in the infant stage in the development of this needed program," Hickey said. "Our alternative school was developed around the premise that this is an opportunity to succeed."

The schools plan to monitor the successes of their programs and report back to the School Board regularly.

Board Chairwoman Ruthann Derrico said she had some phone calls from parents wondering why they couldn't object to their child's placement in an alternative classroom.

"The parent needs to understand that this is simply an intervention," Hickey said. "This is an opportunity for keeping a student in the school system and not out on the street."

Student Support Services Coordinator David Cook added that there is a procedure to challenge a placement.

Board member Janet Herndon asked how the new program was meshing with the alternative program established at the Boys & Girls Club in Crystal River.

"The child targeted there has been through the juvenile justice system," Hickey said, noting he already has sent four of his students through that program.