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CASTAIC KIDS IN TROUBLE TO GET THEIR DAY IN COURT.

Byline: Bhavna Mistry Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - Students in trouble at Castaic Middle School could soon be sent to court, under a new pilot program being started here by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Operation CleanSWEEP - Success With Education and Enforcement Partnership - will give school administrators authority to write citations and send students who commit crimes on campus to Juvenile Court.

``The last thing they ever want to do is expel a student,'' said Deputy Pat Rissler. ``This gives them another opportunity before they go to their last resort.''

Rissler introduced the program to the Sheriff's Department and middle school after hearing about the success of a similar system in San Bernardino County. Castaic will be the first school in Los Angeles County to implement the program.

Though state law allows students to be cited for criminal violations committed on campus, CleanSWEEP gives deputies more time to answer priority calls and administrators the authority to decide whether students should be punished under educational or penal codes.

School officials can cite students for vandalism, graffiti, smoking and possession of smoking-related products, fighting, littering, possession of graffiti tools, petty theft, public drunkenness, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and truancy.

Citations could also issued to students for being disruptive in class or for wearing clothing that could provoke a fight.

``I appreciate the partnership with the Sheriff's Department and think it's a wonderful idea,'' said Sandra Sumber, director of Students Support Services for the Castaic School District.

Last year, the Castaic School district, which teaches children in kindergarten through eighth grade and has 3,300 students, did not expel any student. So far this year, the district has expelled two from a middle school.

School officials believe sending problem students and their parents to court will have a greater impact on the child's behavior, since school suspensions and referrals to Saturday school are often ignored.

Deputy Rissler hopes to expand the program within the Santa Clarita Valley and the William S. Hart Union High School District as well as other school districts and sheriff's stations throughout the county.

Operation CleanSWEEP could spread to all the middle schools and high schools, Rissler said.

Introduced in San Bernardino County five years ago, the program is described by officials as a big help in keeping kids in school.

``It's had a huge impact,'' said Julie Park, commander of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department's Operation CleanSWEEP. ``It just grew. We never slowed down.''

The program has since been implemented at all of the San Bernardino County schools, where officials issue citations for 11 code violations.

Officials said stiff penalties for fighting have served as a major deterrent. Other penalties included community service, which must be completed before an individual can be issued a driver's license.

``It's supposed to be a very effective tool and that's exactly what it is,'' Park said. ``It forces partnerships that we need to take care of the kids. Nobody can do it alone.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 3, 2002
Words:496
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