GA’s “Second Chance” Program Becomes the Model for the State….Experts Worry About Cops in Schools….and More on Juvie JusticeMarch 6th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon
EDITOR’S NOTE: LA’s primaries are (thankfully) over, with most of the major races headed for the May runoffs. So, as a palate cleanser, here’s a cluster of stories on the linked topics of juvenile justice, school reform—and what strategies in these arenas really work:
(NOTE # 2: More stories On LA County Probation and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, coming soon>)
ONE COUNTY’S “SECOND CHANCE” JUVENILE JUSTICE PROGRAM IS ABOUT TO BECOME THE MODEL FOR THE STATE OF GEORGIA
Rhonda Cook for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports. Here’s a clip:
Quantavius Poole was a school brawler, a drug dealer, and he was facing five years in juvenile detention.
Now, at 17, he is a sous chef for a caterer. He hopes to enlist in the National Guard so he can pay his way through a military college. He wants to enter the Air Force.
The program that may have saved Poole, called Second Chance, is a blueprint for legislation to overhaul Georgia’s juvenile justice system. It’s credited with steeply reducing juvenile offenses in Clayton County, and its supporters believe a statewide program could save Georgia hundreds of thousands of dollars per offender.
The goal is to divert offenders who are not violent or could be saved into community-based programs instead of locking them up. Even some who commit more serious crimes could see less time locked up…
The Chief Judge for Clayton County’s juvenile court, Steve Teske, told the AJC that Second Chance has helped dramatically reduce juvenile crime in the county since it started in 2003. That year, 4,774 Clayton teenagers were accused of crimes; last year the total was only 1,936. At the same time, the program gets kids back in school and, in so doing, has increased the region’s graduation rates.
As you’ll see in the video above, Judge Teske is a colorful and extremely intelligent juvenile justice reformer who wears bow ties, is a prodigious storyteller with a flare for the dramatic, and is someone you’ll be hearing a lot more from in the next year, we promise.
“There is a better way,” Teske says, “and it does work.”
TAVIS SMILEY SPECIAL: “EDUCATION UNDER ARREST”
Radio and TV host Tavis Smiley has a new PBS special coming up at the end of the month (March 26, PBS) in which he looks at the connection between the juvenile justice system and the dropout rate among American teenagers—as well as promising efforts by educators, law enforcement professionals, judges, youth advocates and the at-risk teens themselves to end what has become known as “the school-to-prison pipeline.”
In the course of his report, Smiley takes the show on the road, looking at programs and policies in Washington State, Louisiana, Missouri and California, to see what strategies are working well, and what policies are spectacularly unproductive. (I don’t know if “Second Chance” is featured in Smiley’s program, but it’s exactly the kind of successful “evidence based” program that’s proven to work.)
“This notion of zero tolerance is that everything requires extreme action,” says one expert in the series. “And it doesn’t”
In any case, mark your calendars and tune in.
ADVOCATES WORRY THAT MORE COPS IN SCHOOLS WILL MEAN MORE KIDS IN THE JUVIE JUSTICE SYSTEM: BUT SOME SAY TRAINING COPS IS THE ANSWER
Susan Ferris, the excellent reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, has the story about tension that is occurring between the struggle to keep schools safe—while, at the same time, making sure that those same schools are emotionally healthy and non-destructive environments for the kids who attend them.
Here’s an explanatory clip:
….the push for more cops or other armed security personnel in schools is running headlong into another movement that’s been quietly growing in states as diverse as Mississippi, New York, Utah, Texas and California.
It’s a push to get police out of schools, or at least to end their involvement in routine discipline matters that principals and parents used to address without involvement from law enforcement officers.
Civil-rights groups and juvenile court judges — and even some officials within the Obama administration — argue that because the ranks of police began growing in schools in the late 1990s, the criminal justice system’s involvement in student discipline has gotten entirely out of hand in some communities. That has put students, especially ethnic minorities, on a path to failure, they say — the so-called school-to-prison pipeline.
In Los Angeles, for example, scores of students, most Latino or black and many just 11 or 12 years old, have been ticketed by school officers for minor infractions often categorized as disturbing the peace. In Austin, Texas, a 12-year-old was forced to court for spraying on perfume in class. In DeSoto County, Miss. officers and a school district were sued after a bus surveillance video — seen in part by a reporter — revealed officers unjustifiably arresting black students, the suit alleged, and threatening others with a “a bullet between the eyes.”
Optimists — Education Secretary Arne Duncan among them — say cops in schools are not an either/or proposition: careful training, they say, will ensure that school police deployed in the wake of Newtown protect, rather than intimidate, students.
But many civil-rights advocates are worried. They say plenty of cities and states are only beginning to come to grips with allegations that schools, and school-based police, have unjustifiably sent students into the criminal-justice system.
As it happens, Ferris used Clayton County, Georgia’s Judge Teske [see above} for her story, and here’s what she found:
Chief Juvenile Court Judge Steven Teske, of Clayton County, Ga., is not against police in schools, but firmly believes that a school-to-prison pipeline exists.
When Teske took the bench in 1999 in his Atlanta suburb, which is 66 percent black, one-third of the cases in his court were kids referred from schools. By 2004, he said, 92 percent of the 1,400 cases in his court came from schools, mostly for alleged disruption and disorderly conduct.
Lt. Francisco Romero, Clayton’s school resource officer at the time, told the Center for Public Integrity that he was disturbed to discover that one year he arrested more people — students — than any other officer in Clayton.
Fed up, Teske called together school and police leaders and hammered out a protocol requiring counseling and clear warnings before students were sent to court. Teske credits the protocol with improving relationships between students and police, and driving down juvenile felonies by 51 percent and increasing graduation rates by 24 percent.
“If police are placed on campus without written protocols defining their role, the results will be disastrous — just as removing existing police from campus can have unintended consequences,” Teske wrote in the publication Youth Today after the Newtown killings.
Los Angeles Judge Michael Nash also weighed in on the topic:
Michael Nash, presiding juvenile court judge in Los Angeles County, said in an interview that it’s hard to argue against placing police in schools — if they stay out of discipline matters.
As president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Nash sent a strongly worded letter to the Obama administration on Jan. 15, responding to the administration’s call for ideas on school safety.
“Research shows that aggressive security measures produce alienation and mistrust among students, which, in turn, can disrupt the learning environment,” the letter said. “Such restrictive environments may actually lead to violence, thus jeopardizing, instead of promoting, school safety.”
A student’s odds of dropping out of high school quadruple with a first-time court appearance, Nash wrote. Last summer, the judges’ council began a national campaign “to support school engagement and reduce school expulsion.” Putting more armed personnel into schools, Nash said, could prove “counterproductive” to this effort.
Read on to see what the Obama administration plans to do regarding all of the above, which will, of course, affect LAUSD, the nation’s second largest school system.
THE CALLING OF DELIGHT: AN INTERVIEW WITH FATHER GREG BOYLE
And, just because it’s entirely cool to listen to, here’s a link to a purely wonderful interview with Father Greg Boyle (of Homeboy Industries), by Krista Tippett, host of American Public Media’s fine show on faith, called “On Being.”