Program helps prevent school-to-prison pipeline for Lincoln Public Schools students

In Lincoln, there are reports of students bringing drugs or alcohol to school a few times each week, but at Lincoln Public Schools, one poor decision doesn’t have to define the rest of a student’s life.

Instead, it’s treated as an opportunity for education.

“There’s accountability when a student is using or in possession in school, but the goal is not to punish them but to help them make better choices,” Russ Uhling, director of student services for Lincoln Public Schools said.

First–time offenders have the opportunity to participate in a program called project S.A.M.I, or school-based alcohol and marijuana intervention.

It’s a partnership between LPS, the Lincoln Police Department, the County Attorney’s Office and Lancaster County Human Services.

“If a young individual would have come to school with alcohol or marijuana, or a pipe or something they could be introduced into this program,” Patrick Condon, Lancaster County Attorney said.

Project S.A.M.I. puts students through an online education class, a substance abuse evaluation and a meeting with their parents and teachers to discuss behavior changes.

It’s open to students from eighth grade to their senior year of high school.

“We feel it helps students and helps them make better choices and provides intervention and education and that’s what all of us in the Lincoln community want,” Uhling said.

It does so without involving the court system.

“We hear a lot about the school to prison pipeline with kids going from schools to the system and we’re trying to not have that happen, to put stop gaps in that,” Condon said. “These are young kids, they will make mistakes so this is a way to say hey lets deal with these now before they get to more serious charges.”

Nearly 70 students have successfully gone through project S.A.M.I. since its creation two years ago.

Condon said of those students there have been very few subsequent offenses.

If you have a child attending Lincoln Public Schools and you’re worried they could have a substance abuse problem and you’d like to get connected with resources contact your school’s counselor or administration.

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