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Curbing crime by keeping kids off the streets

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Updated: 12/10/2013 12:04 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Suspend a kid from school, and "they fall behind in their course work. They run with the wrong group of kids. They may even become involved with criminal activities," said Dr. Nikolai Vitti.

That's why, when he became superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, he fought to keep the district's ATOSS program, or the Alternative to Truancy and Out of School Suspension program, he said.

"Statistically, it works," he said.

Here's how: Students suspended for three to 10 days are sent to one of four ATOSS centers around town, where they can continue to learn with a certified teacher, a social worker, and a truant officer.

"The bottom line is the consequences are clear. They're removed from the learning environment, yet they're still in front of a teacher and involved educationally," Vitti said.

The program is funded mostly by the city's crime-fighting initiative called the Jacksonville Journey.  But the district also kicks in some cash.  

Vitti said it's worth it.

"We don't want one bad decision to lead to others," he said.

Vitti said Duval County is the only district in the state with an ATOSS program.  Total price tag for four ATOSS centers and staff is about $827,000.

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