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Duval Schools To Get Less City Support For Alternative Out-Of-School Suspension Program

City of Jacksonville


An oversight committee decided Thursday the majority of city dollars earmarked for an alternative to out-of-school suspension program will now be used for programs to keep kids out of jail.

The initiative, Jax Journey, is to help stop crime in Jacksonville.


The committee's chair, W.C. Gentry, said Duval County Public Schools is putting the suspension program out of business.

Jax Journey has been funding four of the county’s five centers, where students work instead of staying home during would-be out-of-school suspensions. But next year, the initiative will only fund one center while Duval County Public Schools will fund the remaining three.

Gentry said about a decade ago suspended students were committing crimes when they weren’t in school.

“And at that point there were over 60,000 kids suspended annually out of school,” Gentry said.

That’s why the alternative, called Alternatives To Out of School Suspensions, was created.

But last year, fewer than 2,000 Duval students were sent to ATOSS and even fewer this year. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said that is largely because the district rethought its code of conduct, opting to keep students on campus for in-school suspension.

“In the ideal situation we would have seen the continuation of funding for all of the sites, but possibly at a reduced rate,” Vitti said. “But with all of that said, I feel that there’s certainly a recognition on the part of the Journey that we have owned the process of finding ways of resisting the use of out-of-school suspensions.”

Vitti said the school district will still have to pay $100,000 more this year to keep the three remaining out-of-school suspension sites the district is responsible for afloat.

The committee's vote to recommend the city cut ATOSS would reduce funding by more than half a million dollars, from $800,000 to about $250,000. Gentry said those dollars will instead go to programs aimed at keeping kids from getting arrested.

“Once they get in the criminal system, there’s a huge number that repeat. If we can change that paradigm, we can have a huge impact on crime,” Gentry said.    

The committee also voted to continue funding a neighborhood accountability board program. Instead of teens being arrested, officers can give out citations, and the teens would be referred to a board where they’ll be assigned to do community service or write apology letters, among other things.

At last month’s meeting there was talk of defunding the program because, at the time, only 42 students had been referred to the board since October and $55,000 city dollars were intended to serve 150 students a year. Since last month, 20 more students have been referred.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.