She said the Infinity program is currently located in two classrooms in the basement of the Longview School in Raleigh, and the new facility will hold 60 to 80 students.
“There are a number of these smaller programs that have been constrained by the spaces they’re in because of the growth we’ve had in our area,” she said.
But Larry Kortering, a special education professor at Appalachian State University, said alternative suspension programs can unnecessarily segregate students.
“There’s a strong federal, state and social preference for these kids to be with other kids as much as possible,” he said. “It’s borrowed from the civil rights era that whenever you separate people based on a disability ... there’s an inherently unequal facility or an unequal service.”
Kortering said sometimes extended suspension programs are used to separate low-achieving students to make the main school look better.
“School performance is a big deal in here in North Carolina, because the general public gets access to test score information,” he said. “If you get rid of your lowest five percent of test scorers, your school is going to do better.”
Parker said the Infinity Program serves students who require a selective environment and additional staffing.
“These are not high school students that are merely suspended,” she said. “These are high school students with specific disabilities and learning issues that require a different type of facility.”
Kortering said alternative suspension programs are effective if they offer students alternative resources unavailable in a traditional setting.
“Whenever we separate kids, based on race, gender or disability, we have to make assurances that what we offer them is going to take them to a better place than the traditional services,” he said. “Otherwise, if we are preparing them for a real world, they need a real classroom.”