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Durham teacher working to keep suspended students in classrooms

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DURHAM, N.C. -

Suspensions rates in Durham Public Schools is a problem some parents think needs to be fixed.

One teacher may have found an answer to the problem.  

Sanders Tate works at C.C. Spaulding Elementary in Durham as a positive behavior intervention specialist.

He teaches a class called "S.O.N.S." or Student of New Success. This class teaches practical life principals, ones not always taught in the traditional classroom.

Lessons like managing money and what to do when bullied.

"About three to five years ago, there were a lot of suspensions at the school," said Tate.

He said about 10 percent of the students in the class Thursday have been suspended before but are making big strides in learning to deal with their frustrations.

"I try to teach kids to communicate. If you don't like kids talking about your mother, let them know," said Tate.

A few days a week, Tate also teaches a class called Eagles Nest, that's similar to S.O.N.S., but more extensive. Eagles Nest focuses on suspended students and keeps some of them in the special program all day.

All that one-on-one attention makes a big impact.

"I'm just starting to see the turn around. The last two weeks it's been a big turnaround," said Tate.

DPS officials said more parents are calling for the school system to address suspensions and to find a way not just to punish the kids, but to teach them a bigger lesson.

Randy Trice remembers when his son was almost suspended at just 8 years old, but he quickly intervened and put his son in Tate's S.O.N.S. program.

It was life changing. "He's thriving right now, he's a star quarterback," said Trice.

Trice said the reason why the program works is simple. It puts the kids in a unique classroom setting where they can talk about life, not just math or history and that makes all the difference.

DPS will be holding three community conversations with Durham parents in December to hear ideas on what else they can do to address the suspension problem.

The first one is taking place on Dec. 7 from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Staff Development Center at 2107 Hillandale Road, Durham. The second is on Dec. 9, from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at Northern High School at 117 Tom Wilkinson Road, and the third will be on Dec. 10, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Southern School of Energy and Sustainability at 800 Clayton Road.

Eileen Park

Eileen joined WNCN after years of working as a foreign correspondent. During her time off, she enjoys relaxing with her dogs, reading, and exploring the Triangle. More>>

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