WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Ending the ‘school to prison pipeline‘ is the aim of a new program that is having success in New Haven, West Haven and Waterbury. The goal is simple; reduce the number of young people that end up in court rooms and prison.

Wednesday, the Governor released some encouraging numbers for the past school year.

With a student population of about 1,200, the Wallace Middle School in Waterbury is one of the largest middle schools in the state.  Last year suspensions and expulsions because of disciplinary problems at Wallace went down over 50 percent.

Referrals to the juvenile court system went down a similar amount. Actual arrests at school went down over 60 percent. Similar numbers are being reported at schools in New Haven, West Haven and Bridgeport.

This success is attributable to a new program  called the “School Based Diversion Initiative“.  13-year-old Jaivon White says he wasn’t doing well in sixth and seven grade, frequently in trouble but says,  “I’m doing fine now, I haevn’t gotten in trouble in like five or four months.”

The principal at Wallace says Jaivon has improved one hundred percent and so have many, many others.

Jackie Davis runs the program in Waterbury,  “Past practice has been just to discipline the misbehavior. Now we’re looking more at correcting behavior so part of that is understanding why he made the choice he did but then helping him to make better choices in the future.”

In many cases that can mean connecting the student with behavioral health services and Emergency Mobil Psychiatric Services and shifting away from punitive discipline.   It seems to be working better.

In visiting the school, Governor Malloy noted today that the state is funding this in 37 schools in 13 districts but can’t afford to do it everywhere,  “One of the things that you hope for in bringing a program like this to schools is that districts themselves will realize that this is a better way to spend their money.”

Teachers and other school professionals are trained to recognize behavior health problems and how to access community resources and put them together with the kids that need them.