Delavan-Darien group targets delinquency

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009
— With dozens of agencies serving students in the Delavan-Darien School District, some people were worried some students might be slipping through the cracks.

Sixty-five concerned educators and citizens have joined ranks to prevent juvenile delinquency and provide support for students in the district. Together, they create the Delavan-Darien Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Coalition.

"Basically we want to wrap around kids who aren't doing well in school," said coalition member and school psychologist Diana Burgstede.

One number the district has struggled with is having the lowest graduation rate in Walworth County.

In the 2006-07 school year, 76.3 percent of students graduated, according to Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction data. In the 2007-08 school year, the number crept up to 78.6 percent.

In the other high schools in the district, the numbers ranged from a low of 86.8 percent at Elkhorn High School in 2006-07 to 100 percent at Williams Bay High School in 2007-08.

Coalition members have met monthly for a year. Members include educators, social workers, church leaders and other advocates.

All felt support for students and communication between agencies was lacking in the district, Burgstede said.

Members have chosen four topics as priorities:

Literacy—The goal is to improve learning opportunities for students and families who are learning English as a second language. It's a big group in Delavan, where 43.9 percent of the student population is a member of an ethnic minority and 25 percent of students are learning English as a second language, according to district data.
Restorative justice—Advocates are working to find more non-punitive ways of dealing with kids who get in trouble at school, Burgstede said. The focus is on teaching kids about conflict resolution and problem solving rather than simply making them pay fines or serve suspensions, she said.

The group also is focusing on developing a strong community service system so kids who are court-ordered to volunteer can easily find appropriate ways to do so, Burgstede said.

"It's a situation where the student is asked to reflect on why they did what they did and have the option to participate in a positive activity and feel good about themselves," she said.

Gang prevention and recreation—The Delavan Police Department is working with coalition members to implement a program called "Second Step," Burgstede said. The goal is to teach kids about conflict resolution and dealing with social situations.

A small group is working hard to improve after school and recreation opportunities for teens in Delavan.

Mental health/alcohol and drug addition—The focus is on improving access to services for students and their families. Some barriers include a lack of insurance, lack of transportation and language differences.

"What happens when you get court-ordered counseling," Burgstede said. "Where do you go to get it and how do you get there?"

Last updated: 11:55 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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