Alternative program gives troubled youth a second chance

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. -- Three Wooddale High School students will get a second chance after getting caught gambling and fighting in the cafeteria.

They've been referred to SHAPE, an alternative program that works to keep kids out of the system.

SHAPE stands for School House Adjustment Program Enterprise.

Right now, it's in 21 Shelby County Schools, but next year, city and county leaders are hoping to expand it.

Last year, 231 kids were in the program, and only 23 percent of them got in trouble again.

In the last three years, WREG is told SHAPE helped keep 53 percent less kids from being transported to Juvenile Court.

"A police officer is involved. They write up a report. No arrests are made. No ticket written," Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael said.

Judge Michael calls it a second chance.

Kids who get in trouble at school for a minor crime are referred to the diversion program.

"SHAPE is designed to be in the child's life to correct the behavior, and learn to be good citizens," Michael said.

If students get in trouble on school property for assault with no serious injuries, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, gambling, simple possession of drugs, vandalism under $500, theft under $500, possession of alcohol and/or possession of drug paraphernalia, and they aren't on probation or don't have a serious record, they likely qualify.

The program is after school and lasts six weeks.

John Hall with SCS Office of Safety and Security is the coordinator.

"While they are in the class, they actually work on homework assignments, tutoring, but most of all we work on their behavior," Hall said.

Three out of five Wooddale High Students who apparently got caught gambling and fist fighting in the cafeteria Thursday will enroll in SHAPE. WREG doesn't know why the other two didn't qualify because of legal reasons.

Hall is hoping more kids get the opportunity to take part in SHAPE. Right now, the program is only offered in 21 Shelby county schools, but he's hoping to expand it next year.

"I know with Mayor Wharton talking about expanding [the youth violence] program, SHAPE has certainly been a project at the top of the list," Hall said.

Judge Michael said SHAPE is part of the larger youth violence prevention program he's helping Mayor A C Wharton with.

WREG will keep you updated on its progress.

The following schools have the SHAPE program:

Southwind High School
Bolton High School
Germantown High School
Melrose High School
East High School
Carver High School
Hamilton High School
Kirby High School
Craigmont High School
Raleigh Egypt High School
Northside High School
Hillcrest High School
Wooddale High School
Kingsbury High School
Cordova High School
Trezevant High School
Wooddale Middle School
Manassas High School
Ridgeway High School
Whitehaven High School
Highland Oaks Middle School