September, 22 2017

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Boot Camp to Keep Troubled Teens in School

A new approach to problem students began this school year at the Tangipahoa Parish School System's Northwood campus in Amite.

The new boot camp is a chance to keep troubled teens in the school system and maybe turn their attitudes and lives around.

Behavior Modification Program


“This is behavior modification,” said Major Sgt. Marvin Vernon, campus commander. “All of the students have had some type of problem - truancy, fighting, anger, attitudes, disrespectful - things of that nature.”

The goal is to change behavior.

About in School Camps for Troubled Youth


Student boot camps are a growing trend in the state and the nation as school officials everywhere search for options short of expulsion for discipline cases.

Everybody wins when students stay in school and earn a high school diploma, according to School Board member Danny Ridgel.

“Major Sgt. Vernon has assembled a good staff at Northwood and I think he's going to do an excellent job,” Ridgel said. “I think this is something that has been long needed in our parish. A certain segment of our student body has trouble from time to time and it disrupts classrooms and prevents other students from learning. Statistics show that if we can get them a high school diploma, they will probably go on to be good citizens in our society. I just think this is a wonderful thing.”

Sgt. Vernon


Vernon, retired from the U.S. Marine Corp after more than 20 years, was an instructor in the School System's ROTC program for 15 years. He made the boot camp proposal after examining similar programs in other schools.

“The proposal and layout is based on my experience and some of the things I've dealt with,” Vernon said.

By Friday 85 students were at the Northwood campus. Except for one fifth-grader, the students are 12 years old and up. About 30 percent are girls.

Vernon meets with each student and their parents once they have been referred to Northwood.

How the Program Works


“I do an interview to try to find out a little about the student's background and give them a clear description of the program and the
expectations,” Vernon said.

From there students go through an indoctrination process. After the third day, students get a uniform and training begins.

The uniforms are military style camouflage.

“From that point on the student has to live up to 45 good days,” Vernon said. “If he or she successfully completes that, then they are awarded a certificate and they can go back to their base school. If they do not do well, the time can be extended up to 24 months.”

Students are evaluated every day and can earn up to 30 points a day toward a certificate for good behavior and reassignment back to their regular school.

Math, science and computer education are part of the routine, but students also spend time on the military side of Northwood campus life.

Drills, leadership and physical education as well as anger management, study skills, conflict resolution, personal hygiene and appearance, drug education and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship are also part of the program.

“I'm very excited about it. I feel we can help a lot of students,” Vernon said. “It's a vehicle to reform students rather than kick them out of schools and give them no options. This is a second chance. In fact, it's greater than a second chance. These are survival

skills, things they can take beyond

a school environment. We are trying to help them in the whole concept of life skills in general. When students leave high school, they

have a real life facing them. Our objective is to take them beyond high school and into family life and careers.”

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