North Carolina Department of Correction News - May 1999

School Partnerships help troubled teens

Concord The students David Calloway supervises are all tough kids. He rarely has to handcuff one, but when he does, he said these high school probationers cry like babies. "None of them want to go to jail. They think they are untouchable."

As an intensive officer, Calloway spends two days a week at five Cabarrus County high schools as part of the Cabarrus County Schools Partnership Program checking on 30 to 35 teenagers, some straight-A students who have brushed with the law. He counsels, he cajoles, and he takes them to prison for a first-hand look at where they could go.

The purpose of the Partnership Program is to keep troubled teens in school. "We want to intervene before these kids commit more serious crimes," Calloway said. "But when the principal says to come get them, you know she’s at the end of her rope."

Before the School Partnership Program began in Cabarrus County in 1997, principals would turn to the parents for discipline. Now Calloway is the enforcer, taking that burden off the parents, making them the good guys and Calloway the bad guy.

But Calloway has great hopes for these youngsters, saying that they are young enough to change. "This is a population we can do something with," Calloway said. "It’s a population you can reach, unlike the adult offenders.

"You beg, you threaten, you plead. You’re nice one day, tough the next. You have to treat them all differently. But if a kid is causing problems, he is not learning."

Calloway never embarrasses students by pulling them out of class, but will stand in the hallway between classes to talk to the teens. About 98 percent of the School Partnership probationers are misdemeanants. Cabarrus County schools generally do not accept felons in their schools.

Each school has a uniformed police officer with whom Calloway shares information. At Central Cabarrus High School, Concord Police Officer Chris Garifo, said, "Before David, we had nothing about the kids on probation. If we had kids on probation, I didn’t know it. Now, I have a file, and David brings the kids to my office."

The probationers must follow the ten rules of the School Partnership Program including maintaining at least a C average, being on time and attending classes, signing in and out of school each day and remaining in the cafeteria during lunch period.

Probationers see Calloway as a police officer and his presence makes an impact according to Catherine Combs, Calloway’s supervisor. "Before, if a probationer was being disruptive in school, fighting, doing drugs, cutting class, or whatever, we were having to pull the child out of school," Combs said. "David tries to get a kid back in line, now."

Before a child is suspended, Calloway has a conference with the principal, teacher and parents to discuss ways to change a child’s behavior. He also sees the probationers outside of class. A number of them have curfews, and part of Calloway’s job as an intensive officer is to make sure they are where they are supposed to be.

"My job is no different from any other probation officer," Calloway said. "I just have the schools."

Calloway is enthusiastic about his school caseload, saying, "There’s a whole population of kids out there who need help."

"This county has probably done more than any other county with the school probation program," said Don Linker, manager of Judicial District 19A. "David has done a good job pointing these kids in the right direction. We deal with the two percent of the population that are bad, but these kids are not all bad. Some of these are students on their way to college who made one bad mistake. David can help them."

In 1993, Concord’s chief district court judge, Adam Grant, started a program for ninth-graders, taking them through the judicial process. Probation was a part of that program and Combs would talk to the teens about electronic house arrest and the different forms of probation.

President Clinton awarded his program a Points of Light Award. The School Partnership Program emerged from Grant’s early work as well as a model from Carteret County.

Only three probationers have been suspended from school since the program’s inception, a tribute to Calloway’s work, Linker said.

"David has a real good relationship with the kids, and the principals appreciate the program a lot. We have plans for a new tracking system and hopes to expand the program to reach young felons who are not allowed in high school or community colleges. If we reach these kids now, we may keep them from wasting their lives in prison." u

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