WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The term alternative school can have a negative stigma but Principal Glen Locklear of the J.C. Roe Center wants to change that.
"A lot of times when I say I'm an alternative school principal, they say that's where the bad kids go to school and that's a misnomer," Locklear said. "There are no bad kids. Sometimes there's bad behavior, but again, as a society we teach reading, we teach math, we need to teach behavior as well."
Students at the school are serving long-term suspensions from district schools, and are coming from home placements.
J.C. Roe is a middle school and high school for these students. Most of them attend for one semester.
According to Locklear, the reasons for their suspensions vary. He said many students experienced trauma in childhood leading to their bad behavior.
The school focuses classes around being trauma sensitive and trauma informed.
"What we try to do is focus on what can we change for the student," Locklear said. "Is it just a poor decision making in one situation or is it we need to give them coping skills so when they go back and are faced with difficult decisions at school they have tools and resources to handle those situations appropriately."
In order to do this, class sizes are much smaller than the typical public school class, about five to 12 students per class. There's a 30 minute class per day that helps students deal with trauma appropriately, mental health therapists are on hand and the school offers clubs like chess, yoga and gardening if they meet their behavior expectations for the day.
Students set goals for themselves to meet throughout the program including academic, attendance, and behavior goals. If they meet these goals, the administration has a meeting with the district school, and the student could be readmitted to their district school.
Students like senior Morgan Grissom said the small class sizes and student-teacher relationships have changed the way she looks at learning.
"They know you and they know what triggers you and they get to know you better and they get to know what can help you and what just really can get you to a better place," she said.
"Yea, there are some pretty bad kids that come through here, but it's more than that it's about kind of finding yourself and trying to make the best of your high school experience," she said.
Grissom was admitted to J.C. Roe after transitioning from a home-school environment. She graduates in January and plans to attend cosmetology school, something she said wouldn't be possible without J.C. Roe.
According to Locklear, the school has about 40 students to start this school year. He predicts by the end of the semester, they'll have more than 100 due to discipline issues that happen throughout the year.