JEFFERSON CITY _ When Missouri students get expelled or suspended from school, they face an uncertain future. They sometimes find jobs, but many find themselves turning to crime.
But Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan and several state lawmakers are trying to change this trend with two efforts to keep kids out of trouble if they are out of school.
Carnahan announced a three-year, $50,000 grant for a new program called SOLUTIONS, a program that will begin in Springfield on Oct. 9. The program was designed to address the needs of children that are not succeeding in a regular public school environment and give them the extra help they need in order to go on to vocational school or get general equivalency diplomas.
The program will be partially funded by the Missouri Public Safety Department, with the remaining money coming from state social service funds and the Springfield school district.
The second attempt to improve the plights of children at risk of committing crimes is the Missouri House interim committee on Safe Schools and Alternative Education.
The committee will examine different ways to help kids who school administrators identify as disruptive or in danger of committing crimes now or later in life. It will also look at the problems many Missouri schools are having with keeping kids safe while they are in school.
The Missouri Education Department does not have statewide figures on the number of students suspended or expelled from school.
Rep. Steve McLuckie, D-Kansas City, is one of the committee's co-chairs. He said he wants the committee to offer school districts an alternative to simply expelling students with behavioral or other problems.
"My number one hope for the committee is to come up with a specific plan on alternative education for kids in need of help," McLuckie said.
McLuckie said a law passed by the General Assembly last session allowing schools to suspend students who bring a firearm to school for at least one year is having a severe impact on some children. This is particularly evident, McLuckie said, in rural school districts where often there are no alternative education programs to keep those suspended kids off the streets while they are out of school.
The overall goal of the committee, McLuckie said, is to improve the security and safety of Missouri's schools.
"The bottom line for me is making schools safer so parents and students can feel good about public schools again," McLuckie said.