Studies show that school suspensions and expulsions are linked to an increased likelihood of students dropping out. Tuscaloosa City Schools are working to make sure that's not the case with their students. And the plan appears to be working.
It stands for Helping Education/Linking Parents. Not only are all k-12 schools involved, but several community leaders. The results are a steady decline in the number of suspensions district wide.
"The bottom line is we know students who are suspended from school two or more times during a school year are at a greater risk of failing that grade," said Vickie Brown, director of students services for Tuscaloosa Schools.
She says suspension is not the ultimate solution for students who have problems with discipline.
"When you suspend a student out of school, that's a temporary solution to a long term problem," said Brown.
Tuscaloosa school officials however, have come of with what they hope is a long term solution to behavioral problems.
Since launching the HELP program in 2009, Tuscaloosa schools have seen a steady decline in suspensions and expulsions.
"Prior to starting the help program we had close to four thousand out of school suspensions. After year one it went down to about 36-hundred, 32-hundred, and then this past year a little over three-thousand," said Brown.
But the school system is not in this alone. If students are suspended more than once, they, along with their parents are required to meet with the superintendent, mayor , district attorney and chief of police.
Chief Steven Anderson says he would rather see the students once during a HELP session than in jail.
"If children are having problems in school with disciplinary issues then more than likely those issues can lead to issues outside of school that can lead to them being arrested, placed in juvenile detention and entering the criminal justice system," said Anderson.
Though HELP is considered a disciplinary program, Brown says it's really a means to an end. The end is getting their students across the stage with a diploma in hand.
"What we're trying to do is be more proactive and more preventive before students are suspended to the point where they can never recover the credits," she said.