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NJ Charter Schools for Kids Battling Addiction [POLL/AUDIO]

The State Senate Education Committee will consider a bill today to create charter schools exclusively and specifically for students fighting addiction.

Flickr User Phelyan Sanjoin

“The mainstream public school setting is not a good atmosphere for children who have addiction issues,” said Sen. Ray Lesniak, the bill’s sponsor. “They get a lot of peer pressure.”

The legislation would allow charter schools to be established solely for students in recovery. Brown University and Rutgers University have dormitories designated for students in recovery and there are recovery high schools in communities across the country.

“It’s the same thing as the education that they’ll get in a regular public high school, but it would be layered into their recovery program,” explained Lesniak. “There will be (drug and alcohol) testing requirements. They’ll have to go to meetings and group activities. There will be specialized services that just aren’t available in a normal public school setting.”

Offering students a learning environment away from peer pressure and the drug and alcohol use that contributed to their substance abuse, dramatically increases their chances for a successful recovery, according to substance abuse experts. The program’s advocates say the support of other students in recovery are added factors that can help sustain long-term recovery.

Funding for the schools will be the major obstacle. Lesniak knows the state only has so much money and he’s counting on substantial help from the private sector. He hopes there will eventually be recovery schools all over the state.

Appearing before the education panel this morning in support of the bill will be a variety of experts, advocates and recent students, including members of Young People In Recovery, a support group that helps kids overcome addiction.

“Schools that are devoted to students in recovery can provide the academic services and assistance that will help them grow and flourish free of addiction to drugs and alcohol,” said Lesniak. “This is sober schooling for young people with substance abuse problems they want to overcome.”

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