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Purpose is to teach students discipline

ANDIS – Students at the Lawrence County Alternative School walk single file with their hands behind their back and in total silence.

Friday, March 09, 2001

ANDIS – Students at the Lawrence County Alternative School walk single file with their hands behind their back and in total silence.

They sit quietly in class with pen in hand working on their assignments. The only noise in the school comes from the Headstart classes that share the building. The students’ silence, however, is speaking volumes around the state and nation.

The school is normally reserved for students on a short-term basis – on orders from school administrators or from the juvenile court system. Students can spend anywhere from one day to the entire school year at the facility.

School director Mike Vavra said the students come from all of the schools in the county, ranging from grades 7-12 and they are there for a variety of reasons.

"They come here for any suspendible offense," Vavra explained, "Our top three reasons are insubordination, truancy and tobacco use in the school."

Vavra said the rules at the alternative school are more rigid than in the regular schools and the students sign a sheet stating they understand what is expected at Andis.

The students keep their jewelry at home, restricted to wearing only a watch. Girls keep their makeup on their nightstand because none is allowed. The boys have to wear pants that fit as baggy jeans aren’t allowed. If the student decides to wear them anyway, they are treated to a duct-tape hemming.

When the students arrive at the school their day of highly structured learning begins. Lining up on a yellow tape line on the gym floor, the students stand at attention and are patted down and their coats and book bags are checked for contraband. Silence and respect for themselves and others are the two main rules from the moment they enter the school.

The students then go through close-order drills. They learn and practice marching as a unit. Vavra explained that the drills aren’t so much for military reasons but as an exercise to build self-control.

Academic work and physical training fills the rest of the day’s schedule. The students exercise to build both self-esteem and self-control.

Because of its success the school has hosted representatives from 14 other counties, five states and Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery.

Vavra said the school only has 8 percent of the students returning, which is not a bad statistic considering the average is an 80 percent student return in similar programs. Vavra said the school is ranked the most successful in the state for repeat students and the third most effective in the nation.