Katie's Blog

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

School-to-Prison Pipelines, Classroom Management, and Restorative Justice

restorative justice
Supervising children is not an easy task; managing a classroom of more than 30 adolescents is a monumental feat. It should go without saying that teaching is a profession that is at times both rewarding and thankless. Those who choose to go into the field do so because of a desire to help young people achieve their highest potential even though the classroom is usually the last place students want to be for more than 200 hundred days of the year. Those of us without the task of overseeing youngsters find it challenging to understand how teachers do it; we were all children once, so we know firsthand the patience-trying nature of teenagers.

Most adults can remember the handful of troublemakers they had to share classrooms with, those who made it a point to disrupt lesson plans day-in-and-day-out. It seems like the sole mission of some kids was to be the bane of the faculty's existence. Although, it is likely that few of us could grasp, at the time, why certain classmates acted out; we could not know that forces outside the classroom may have driven some youngsters to rebel.

Some people can probably remember instances of their school throwing in the towel with specific students, deciding that the best thing to be done was to suspend or expel a student; if asked, the school would justify removing a problem child as being a service to the rest of the class and the teacher. Dismissing a student might lessen distractions in classrooms, but it probably did nothing to help the student in question and potentially was a jumping off point to more severe problems. Those who are expelled from high school are far more likely to face the juvenile justice system.

While people most often associate violence and drugs with suspension and expulsion, up until not too long ago faculties could adduce “willful defiance” — virtually anything that disrupts a class — as a reason to expel or suspend students. Then, in 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 420, eliminating willful defiance as a cause for expulsion. Since that time, California school districts have had to focus on what was behind a student’s behavior, address the problem, and help a child change their ways.

Classroom Management


If a classroom is a ship of enlightenment, the teacher is the captain, which make the students the crew. Those teens who pay attention and do their work may one day grow up to oversee a team of employees, or maybe even become teachers him or herself. As with any voyage, the captain must be both stern and fair; and, perhaps more than anything else protect the mission from mutiny. One could argue that students prone to disrupting the class are, in a sense, mutineers; on the high seas the captain might throw the offender overboard, but in the California classroom of today that frankly isn’t an option anymore. It seems the only course of action is to ensure that the "classroom captain” can manage their students effectively.

With that in mind, you may find it hard to believe that very little of a teacher’s education involves taking courses on how to manage a classroom effectively. It’s one thing to tell a teacher that a disruptive student is going to be around whether they like it or not, it’s another thing altogether to say that to an educator who lacks to the necessary skill set to manage the future generations.

“Classroom management is extraordinarily absent in teaching certification programs,” Mike Lombardo, director of prevention supports and services for the Placer County Office of Education, tells EdSource

In fact, a survey shows that when it comes to classroom management, more than 40 percent of new teachers reported feeling either “not at all prepared” or “only somewhat prepared.” The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is responsible for establishing best practices in teaching; last year, the commission made a requirement that new teachers have an excellent understanding of non-punitive methods of discipline, EdSource reports. Restorative justice is one such method, a technique that involves relationship building and making amends. Instead of permanently removing kids from a classroom — a practice that can have a lasting effect (i.e., run-ins with the juvenile justice system, otherwise known as the "school-to-prison pipeline") on a student who likely is only acting out because he or she needs more support — teachers work to better understand the misbehaving student's social and emotional needs.

“[Beginning teachers should] promote students’ social-emotional growth, development and individual responsibility using positive interventions and supports, restorative justice and conflict resolution practices to foster a caring community where each student is treated fairly and respectfully by adults and peers,” according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing's new performance expectations.

Juvenile Defense Attorney


The Law Offices of Katie Walsh specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges or school expulsion, Attorney Walsh can advocate for you and your family in several ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

California Youth Reinvestment Fund

California Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer, Sr. is requesting $100 million to assist young people who find themselves on the wrong side of the Law. The money will support the Youth Reinvestment Fund, a proposal that would specifically help vulnerable youth populations, including minorities, children with disabilities, girls, LGBTQ youth, and foster children, according to a press release. Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer points to research indicating that diversion and mentoring programs produced $3.36 of benefits for every dollar spent, reducing crime and saving taxpayers money.

"Research has shown that non-detention alternatives, particularly for low-level offenses, are more appropriate responses to curb delinquent behavior, avoiding pushing youth deeper into the juvenile justice system, writes Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer. “Most importantly, communities that have intentional diversion programs show improved outcomes for youth and public safety.”

The proposal relies on trauma-informed, community and health-based interventions, instead of incarceration. Last week, Youth Reinvestment Fund advocates joined forces in Sacramento to lobby for the funds which they believe will help thousands of at-risk youths avoid detention, The Chronicles for Social Change reports. Supporters hope for a different outcome than last year when a similar version fell short.


Youth Reinvestment Fund


Jones-Sawyer, who represents South Los Angeles, Florence-Firestone, Walnut Park, and a portion of Huntington Park, is confident that funding community organizations to work with at-risk youth will pay off immensely in the long run. If the budget proposal is approved, the assemblymember says it will keep 10,000 young people from arrest, detention, and incarceration each year.

“When we incarcerate young people, that’s about $200,000 to $300,000 per year, per kid,” said Jones-Sawyer. “With this $100 million, I could save the taxpayers maybe $8 to 10 billion.” 

The Youth Reinvestment Fund would apportion:
  • $10 million for Tribal Diversion Programs for Native American youth.
  • $15 million for social workers to assist minors in juvenile or criminal court, within the public defenders office.
  • $75 million would fund local diversion programs and community-based services for at-risk youth over a 3-year grant period.
One of the critical components of the Youth Reinvestment Fund is hiring more social workers to help out in public defenders' offices. As it stands right now, only three counties (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Contra Costa) have social workers on site in public defender's offices. Even still, Jones-Sawyer notes that there are not enough social workers to participate in every case, according to the article. Brendon Woods, head of the Alameda County Public Defender’s office, says that when young people have the help of social workers, it reduces recidivism rates.

“The ones that do have social workers have tremendous success in terms of advocating for their youth, finding alternatives to incarceration, getting them into community-based programs,” Woods said. “It is almost night and day compared to the services that are provided to youth when social workers are involved as opposed to when they are not.”


Juvenile Defense Attorney


The Law Offices of Katie Walsh specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in several ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Probation Department Watchdog for Juvenile Justice

At first glance, Campus Kilpatrick in idyllic Malibu, CA, may not be what you might expect, a juvenile detention facility. That is because the center is following a somewhat different outline for the rehabilitation of youngsters with past troubles. Those sent to Kilpatrick are subject to a 16-week rehabilitation program focusing less on punishment and more on education, counseling, and vocational training. Instead of correctional officers running the show, teachers and counselors take center stage—guided by a trauma-informed and child-centered approach.


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Juvenile Justice Watchdog


L.A. Model
With a model more similar to a boarding/military school than a detention facility, the first class of residents arrived on campus July 3, 2017, and “graduated” just before the turn of the year. While the program is widely hailed as a success, it will take years before we can know for certain how effective the program is compared to previous approaches. A group of independent researchers is following the youths who complete the Campus Kilpatrick, The Los Angeles Times reports. It is likely that it will take a great length of time to determine the efficacy of the "L.A. Model" of juvenile rehabilitation. 

The L.A. Model is one of many changes when it comes to juvenile justice in California. Last week, a new watchdog agency to oversee the Los Angeles County Probation Department was approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Juvenile abuse, sexual assault, and the practice of solitary confinement at detention camps for young people are among the chief concerns.

There are “profound and deep-seated” problems, Chief Probation Officer Terri McDonald tells NBC Los Angeles. McDonald is tasked with reforming the department, and she supports the oversight commission. She also wants to point out recent successes, such as Campus Kilpatrick and the closing of three probation camps.

"I believe profoundly in oversight," McDonald said. "I believe in community engagement and transparency in the work that we do." 

The commission's job will be traveling to and observing juvenile halls and camps throughout the state, according to the article. The watchdog is also responsible for tracking the recent criminal justice reforms in California and report directly to McDonald and the parole board. Eventually, the commission will oversee adult probationers, as well.

Juvenile Defense Attorney


The Law Offices of Katie Walsh specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in several ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Absolving Juveniles Fines, Fees Court Costs

probation
As the saying goes, ‘crime doesn’t pay;’ however, and as far as the state is concerned, criminals do. Everyone knows that in many cases if a person is caught, charged, and convicted of a crime, they are facing jail time. If the offender is a minor, they are remanded to a juvenile justice facility for a given length of time. The thing that most people do not know is that the easiest part of a given punishment is the time behind bars, the hard part is the financial costs that come with breaking the law. The economic toll extends far beyond retaining the services of an attorney, and remember, if you cannot afford a lawyer, then one will be provided for you.

Depending on the offense, sentencing can include victim restitution; and more times than not, people released from jails and prisons go on probation for varying lengths of time, all of which costs money. It is no different for juveniles either, except for who is responsible for paying the bills. Of course, it is unrealistic to think that a 16-year old can pay their legal fees, it isn’t as if they have high-paying jobs. So, the bills fall on mothers and fathers who, in most cases, are on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale.

The fees that the families of juvenile offenders are responsible for paying is a significant amount of money. According to The Crime Report, fees come from:
  • Victim Restitution
  • Baseline Fines
  • Administrative Costs (i.e., probation, electronic monitoring, and public defenders)


High Pay and Low Gain


When a youth's fines and fees are not paid, the debt is taken up by the tax franchise board which will garnish the money from parents’ paychecks, according to the article. Even still, Kate Weisburd, Director of the Youth Defender Clinic in California, says that counties end up paying in the long run. Recouping fines and fees from impoverished families ends up costing counties more than what offenders owe in the first place.

“[Counties] weren’t recouping much to begin with” said Weisburd, an alum of Brown University and Columbia Law School. “What happens is a family is billed $4,000 in administrative fees, and it would cost the county that much money to collect it. Processing costs so much and these poor families can’t afford to pay for it.” 

The fact that adjustments need to come about isn't lost on juvenile judges, according to the article. In fact, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges approved a resolution that would no longer require juveniles and their families to cover the legal costs. In California, a law went into effect this past January making it the first state to do away with fees for incarcerated youth. It may be more difficult in some states to enact such reforms; however, individual judges have the right to not levy fines and fees against minors.


Juvenile Defense Attorney


At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in several ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

California Teachers Contend With Restorative Justice

willful defiance
The so-called “school-to-prison pipeline” is a topic on many people’s minds in California. The subject is also the focus of specific laws that help avoid trapping young people in the criminal justice system; such legislation is part of a broader effort to reduce the California prison population. Seeing as many adolescents start running into problems with authority in high school, it is of value to discuss some of the difficulties that educators say they are facing in the wake of Sanders v. Kern High School District (KHSD).

It is fair to say that teenagers do not belong in adult prison systems, nor should they be expelled from school for minor infractions. However, over the years both scenarios have been a reality for many young people, especially minorities. Sanders v. KHSD, was a suit levied by the Dolores Huerta Foundation, Faith in the Valley, the National Brotherhood Foundation, and others alleging that minorities were suspended and expelled at higher rates than their white students.

Teachers in Kern County have found it difficult to rein in students of late, which they place partial blame on Sanders v. KHSD, Bakersfield.com reports. A number of teachers are targets of physical and verbal assault since the district began implementing a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) model.

PBIS and Willful Defiance


Is it possible that students, knowing they face lesser penalties for their actions, are emboldened? This year, at least ten teachers at KHSD campuses have become victims of assault, according to the article. While Sanders v KHSD may have a hand in the recent spate of abuses, there are other factors to consider. Restorative justice programs aim to get to the source of a student's problem rather than resort to immediate suspension or expulsion. Students acting out are taken out of class and talk out their issues with trained staff. Some educators contend that PBIS allows students to continue behaving badly as they are without real punishment “helping breed a culture of misbehavior.”

Another change in recent years that could play a part in student unruliness is how schools now handle “willful defiance,” a category used to describe non-violent misbehavior in class. A bill was passed making it illegal to suspend students for willful defiance which Bakersfield High School Principal David Reese says is the real source of the problem, not PBIS, the article reports.

"It's out of frustration of changes to the law about willful defiance, and it's not a BHS problem or a KHSD problem. This is a frustration that crosses California and the nation as research has come in that shows suspending kids 'willy-nilly' for disruption of school activities or defiance needs to be clarified," Reese said.

Juvenile Defense Attorney


At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in juvenile law, including school discipline. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in several ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

California Juvenile Justice Reform

Equity Justice Package
The proposed #EquityAndJustice2018 package includes several bills that could drastically change juvenile justice in California. If the legislative measure makes its way to the Governor’s desk, it could help put a stop to the juvenile justice to adult corrections pipeline. The group of bills includes SB 1391, SB 1392 and SB1393 introduced by Senators Ricardo Lara (D) Long Beach and Holly Mitchell (D) Los Angeles, according to Oakland Post. Thus far, the package has earned a stamp of approval from the Public Policy Committee and will now go before the Appropriations Committee. Hopefully, the series of bills will be received well.

Equity and Justice Package


SB 1391: “Existing law provides that, notwithstanding open course provisions in statute or regulations of the board of governors, the governing board of a community college district that provides classes for inmates of certain facilities may include the units of full-time equivalent students generated in those classes for purposes of state apportionments. This bill would repeal the authority of a district attorney to make a motion to transfer a minor from juvenile court to a court of criminal jurisdiction in a case in which a minor is alleged to have committed a specified serious offense when he or she was 14 or 15 years of age, thereby amending Proposition 57.

SB 1392: “Existing law imposes an additional 3-year sentence for each prior separate prison term served by a defendant where the prior and current offense was a violent felony, as defined. If that provision does not apply, existing law instead imposes a one-year term for each prior separate prison term or county jail felony term under the law, except under specified circumstances. This bill would delete the provision that requires an additional one-year term.

SB 1393: “Existing law requires the court, when imposing a sentence for a serious felony, in addition and consecutive to the term imposed for that serious felony, to impose a 5-year enhancement for each prior conviction of a serious felony. Existing law generally authorizes a judge, in the interests of justice, to order an action dismissed, but precludes a judge from striking any prior serious felony conviction in connection with imposition of the 5-year enhancement. This bill would delete the restriction prohibiting a judge from striking a prior serious felony conviction in connection with imposition of the 5-year enhancement described above and would make conforming changes.

Juvenile Justice Press Conference


Sens. Ricardo Lara and Holly J. Mitchell held a press conference to discuss the three bills mentioned above, as well as SB 1050. These new bills propose to reform juvenile and adult criminal sentencing. Please take some time to watch the video below:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Juvenile Defense Attorney


At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in a number of ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Cannabis Legalization Affects Juveniles

marijuana
California has a long history of leading the way on legislative issues. Marijuana is no different; in 1996 California became the first state to successfully approve a measure allowing doctors to recommend cannabis use for patients with specific health conditions. Now, a little over twenty years since setting a historical precedent by taking a stance divergent from that of the Federal government, some 29 states and D.C. have medical marijuana programs.

The “green revolution” continues to sweep across the country. In 2012, Colorado and Washington's voters voted in favor of marijuana legalization, essentially decriminalizing the drug for adult personal use. Today, eight states (including California) allow adults to consume the contentious drug without fear of legal repercussions. Which begs the questions, what happens when minors are found using or possessing cannabis?

Marijuana, despite most Americans considering the drug benign, can cause serious harm to young people’s developing brains. In fact, researchers remain divided over the long-term repercussions of cannabis use, but most agree that young people have the most to lose. Just because a substance is deemed unhealthy, shouldn’t necessarily mean that young people found with the drug should find themselves in the juvenile justice system. 

What Does Cannabis Legalization Mean for Juveniles?



California Proposition 64 brought with it far more than just a license for adults to smoke “pot.” The bill provides an avenue for people to reduce penalties for most crimes involving the drug retroactively. Historically, having a criminal charge on your record for marijuana would make it far more difficult to land jobs or find housing; now, people can get their felonies reduced to misdemeanors or expunged completely, opening up doors in people’s lives that were once shut.

“A criminal conviction can be a barrier to employment, housing and other benefits,” San Francisco District Attorney, George Gasc√≥n, tells The O.C. Register

It is no secret that young people, including teenagers are apt to experiment with marijuana, which remains illegal under both state and Federal law. Proposition 64 did away with all cannabis-related criminal penalties for people under 18, The Orange County Register reports. Instead of jail and fines, minors are subject to community service and drug education courses for marijuana-related offenses. It should come as little surprise that California is the first state to write this kind of provision into their legalization measure; once again leading the charge.

Reducing sentences for adult marijuana offenses will have a lasting impact on countless Californians. Although, one could also argue that keeping young people out of the juvenile justice system will spare an even more significant number of people from paying an enormous cost for a wrong decision.

Juvenile Defense Attorney



At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in a number of ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.