Penn Yan School sets program, faces challenge of teaching suspended students

Gwen Chamberlain

The administration and staff at Penn Yan Academy are making plans for a special presentation to help parents learn more about the signs and symptoms of drug abuse and they are trying to find a better way to educate the seven students who are on long-term suspension from school because they were charged with drug offenses.

Superintendent Ann Orman says while the students on the long-term suspensions are not permitted in regular classroom settings, they are tutored at home. That is stretching the district’s resources, she says, because some of the suspensions are what she calls “long.”

So the school administration is looking for an alternative to tutoring the students in their homes. She says she has been in touch with Dundee Central School about possibly sharing a setting there, but there’s not enough room for the Penn Yan students.

“We have been talking about alternative programs for kids who are suspended, but there is no space in the district. We’ve tried to work with BOCES and have found that other superintendents also have this problem,” explained Penn Yan Superintendent Ann Orman.

She stresses the long term suspensions are not like a vacation from school.

“Their parents are putting restrictions on them and they don’t have any time around the other kids in school. However, it’s not the best eduational setting,” she added.

Orman didn’t want to comment on the length of the suspensions because she’s afraid that might reveal too much confidential information. But she says the families of the students involved are very supportive of the way the school is handling the cases.

School Resource Officer Jeff Dawes says he’s planning a presentation similar to one he did last year, which attracted about 100 people.

“But, we’ll update it to express the current trends,” he said.

The program will help parents and others understand what to look for in connection to the use and abuse of street drugs, prescriptions and inhalants.

He says the Penn Yan community is beginning to see trends similar to national ones — including the abuse of prescription drugs.

“Unfortunately, the problems in the community are finding their way into the school district. This isn’t unique to Penn Yan or Yates County,” he says.

Penn Yan Police Chief Gene Mitchell adds, “From what I’ve seen, I don’t think there’s a huge issue at the school. These are pretty good kids who made bad decisions. It’s not a reflection of bad things happening routinely at the school.”