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An Ohio school district offers yoga as an alternative to detention

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By LU ANN STOIA, WSYX/WTTE

LANCASTER, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) - Some students getting a detention for misbehavior at school are now being given an option at Lancaster High School. Teens can take a yoga class to get them back on track.

The Youth Yoga Project is a non-profit program founded by Lauren Greenspan and another yoga instructor Julia Handelman. They call the detention alternative REaCT, which stands for Restorative Exercises and Coping Techniques.

Greenspan said they focus on three things - “We breathe, we move, we relax.”

The program meets after school in a classroom without windows, where the students can focus without other eyes on them.

Freshman Tray Scandalito said the class has opened his eyes to different ways to deal with stress.

“The yoga helps out because it’s like ok, focus on what you are saying. Don’t say something you don’t mean and that is going to affect the other person,” said Scandalito, who thinks traditional suspensions and detentions from school are a waste. “I don’t thing kicking children out of school is the best choice because it is basically taking away from their learning.”

Students may be referred to the program by administrators as a replacement to traditional discipline. Greenspan said if kids could be doing well, they would be.

“So when they are not doing well we believe that it is because of a skill deficit rather than a willful disobedience," she said.

Greenspan told the students, "Whatever you are learning here, I want you to take off our mat using incorporate it into your life, to regulate yourself and support yourself.”

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She said 88 percent of their students reported that the program gave them ideas how to avoid getting in trouble in the future.

Scandalito said the classes are giving him tools to build relationships and resolve conflict.

Another student, Bryce Snyder,14, said he is getting more comfortable with the classes and thinks other districts might look at beginning a similar program.

“The more things you provide for people , the more opportunities you get in life. This is something you could take with you for the rest of your life,” said Snyder.

Some students who attend the classes now are not being disciplined. They just find that yoga helps them feel better and manage the daily hassles of life in a positive way.

“If you teach a student how to use their breathing and their body to regulate themselves , that is empowering them to be able to do that for the rest of their lives,” said Greenspan.

Teachers and counselors said they encountered some skepticism and misconceptions when the program was launched. But now other schools districts are asking how they can get started.

“We try to teach them self awareness, so you will notice in the program we are asking them, 'What do you notice in your body? What is going on in your mind? How do you know when you are getting upset?' And then we try to equip them with some self management coping tools that can use to regulate themselves in any setting,” said Greenspan.

“What is at the root of norm breaking or rule breaking in schools? And how could we teach kids the skills they need to be successful? instead of assigning totally unrelated punishments , such as sitting in a detention room, we try something else."

For more information on the Youth Yoga Project you can visit their website here.

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