Katie's Blog

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

School Suspension Rates in Rural California

school suspension
The Bureau of Children’s Justice, a division of the state Attorney General’s Office, is tasked with protecting at-risk children. There are laws which are meant to protect vulnerable young people; it’s the Bureau’s job to enforce such protections. However, children fall through the cracks time and time again.

California school districts have a long history of suspending and expelling minorities and intellectually disabled children. Despite recent efforts to work with children who are having problems in school before resorting to punitive measures, many youths are suspended at alarming rates.

Black and Latino children are suspended and expelled at exceedingly higher rates than white kids in many school districts. This is true even when children of color make up only a slight fraction of the student body. Whether we are looking at high school or elementary school, the data does not lie—minorities bear the brunt of the discipline meted out by faculty.

An investigation is underway to determine why a rural California school district is suspending students at an exponentially higher rate than the statewide average, EdSource reports. A report shows that Butte County’s Oroville City Elementary School District’s suspension rate is three times higher than average in California.

Alarming Suspension Rates in California


Oroville City (pop. 229,294), just north of Sacramento, is the seat of Butte County. Oroville City Elementary suspended 12 percent of its students during the 2017-18 school year, according to the article. However, only four (4) percent of students in public schools were suspended, at least once, across the entire state.

Although black students make up only three percent of the district’s enrollment, they are suspended far more often than their white classmates. An EdSource analysis of the data shows that black students were suspended 70 percent more often than their white students at Oroville City Elementary. Moreover, black kids were suspended two times more often as white children at Ishi Hills Middle School.

During the 2016-17 school year, students in the district were out of school more often due to suspension than virtually all other students in the state, according to the UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies.

“I’m glad the attorney general is paying attention to both the high rates and large racial disparities,” said Daniel Losen, the director of the UCLA center and author of the organization’s suspension report. “There is a lot districts can do to lower suspension rates without jeopardizing the learning environment.” 

The statistics are troubling for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that laws prohibit suspending K-3 students for being disruptive. Senate Bill 419 was introduced this year to expand those protections to grades 4 to 8. Whenever young people are not in a classroom, they are put at significant risk of getting into more trouble. The school-to-prison pipeline begins with suspension and expulsion.

Orange County School Discipline Attorney


If your child is facing expulsion from his or her school, then it is vital that you turn to an expert for guidance. Former prosecutor Katie Walsh has an extensive amount of experience advocating for young people who face problems at school. Please contact us today to learn how Attorney Walsh can help your child with their school expulsion hearing.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Juvenile Justice by the Numbers

Juvenile Justice
In 1996, the California Division of Juvenile Justice, the state’s youth correctional system, housed over 10,000 children and young adults (ages 12 to 25), according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

Today, we see a very different picture of juvenile justice in the Golden State. Thanks to several criminal justice reforms and the tireless of countless individuals, rehabilitation is now California’s watchword.

The number of young people housed in juvenile detention centers had fallen to 627, as of June 2018, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. While most people will find this news uplifting, lawmakers still have far to go in ensuring that all children are afforded the same benefits.

Young African Americans and Latinos are over-represented in both arms of the criminal justice system—juvenile and adult. Of the 71,923 juvenile arrests in 2015, black and Latino youths made up 88% of those tried as adults, according to a study from the California Department of Justice.

On numerous occasions, we have written about Proposition 57 on this blog. The legislation took power to try children as adults away from prosecutors in 2016. However, black and Latino youths are still tried as adults at the same rate.

Probation Helps and Hurts Young People


While fewer young people are locked up, there are more than 39,000 youth on probation in California, according to the article. Probation gives kids more options, but the likelihood of violating terms is high. Violations often result in incarceration.

“Probation is a hidden secret of the juvenile justice system,” said Nate Balis, Director of the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group for The Annie E. Casey Foundation. “The proportion of kids put in probation remains the same year after year. It is quite similar to what it looked like with the overall approach in the 1990s. One thing to change is dramatically narrowing who ends up on probation. Kids with first offenses like shoplifting can end up on probation. We must be more discerning and divert far more youth from juvenile justice system.” 

Probation can be successful if young people are supported along the way. Expecting teenagers to fall in line after an arrest is wishful if they lack the resources to make necessary changes. We have to remember that teenagers who get in trouble with the law rarely come from stable homes. Bad influences are aplenty inside the house and out.

Reforms are only beneficial when they are in tandem with investments in the community. Diversion programs can give young people the tools to get back on track, stay in school, and avoid incarceration down the road.

California Juvenile Defense Attorney


Parents with a son or daughter facing legal trouble or school expulsion can benefit from seeking the help of juvenile defense expert. Having an experienced advocate in your family’s corner can pay off significantly.

Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help you overcome your legal challenges.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Criminal Justice Bills Pass Hurdles

criminal justice
The California Assembly and Senate’s fiscal committees met to determine the fate of several criminal justice bills this month. At which time speedy mass-hearings commence, often without public knowledge, to decide the fate of legislation, according to Witness LA. This process allows lawmakers to support or kill bills without having to vote one way or the other.

Bills that would cost the state more than $150,000 go into what is called “suspense files,” the article reports. Each May, committees meet to decide which legislation will move forward or be left behind for the time being. Suspense files are legislative storage containers.

For instance, Assembly Bill 1182 did not get the green light. The bill would have reduced parole time for people convicted of certain crimes and lowered the parole-service requirement time.

Now that the fiscal committees have met, we will discuss some of the criminal justice reforms that passed the hurdle. The bills include Assembly Bills 1076, 680, and 1331; as well as, Senate Bills 114, 555, and 716.

Criminal Justice Bills that Survived


Assembly Bill 1076 automates the expungement process statewide so that people are not affected by records that should have been wiped clean already. According to the article, around two million Californians are eligible to have offenses removed from their records.

Assembly Bill 680 aims to reduce the criminalization of people living with mental illness. The bill also requires all 911 dispatchers to receive mental health intervention training. Assembly Bill 1331 seeks to expand California’s collection of criminal justice system-related data.

Senate Bill 114 seeks to do away with criminal justice system fees, including:
  • Probation and diversion
  • Collecting restitution orders
  • Processing
  • Drug testing
  • Incarceration
  • Medical
  • Sealing or expunging criminal records
Senate Bill 555 would reduce commissary and phone call costs for jailed people and their families. Finally, Senate Bill 716 mandates court schools to offer post-secondary classes or vocational courses for juveniles out of high school.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney


If your child is facing legal trouble or school expulsion, then it helps to have a juvenile justice expert to serve as your advocate. Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh for a free consultation. Attorney Walsh is committed to helping young people get to the other side of their difficulties with the least amount of impact on their lives.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Appeals Court Upholds SB 1391

SB 1391 Upheld
At The Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we are following Senate Bill 1391 developments closely. Some of our readers may remember that SB 1391 bars prosecutors from filing motions to transfer youths under 16 to adult court. In a previous post, we wrote about how some district attorneys believe the legislation is unconstitutional.

Solano County prosecutors, for instance, challenged the new law signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown. They argued that SB 1391 violated a 2016 ballot measure permitting juvenile-court judges to send youths' cases to adult criminal court, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Solano County isn’t alone; several other counties are challenging the new law as well.

This month, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejected Solano County’s challenge, upholding the law, the article reports. The decision is a victory for juvenile justice advocates, but the issue is far from settled. It is likely that the California Supreme Court will have the final say in the matter ultimately.

Boiling Down SB 1391


In 2000, a ballot measure was passed allowing district attorneys to bring charges against 14-year-olds in adult criminal court for “serious” crimes. DAs had full discretionary power in deciding which youths got transferred. They did not require permission from judges.

Proposition 57 repealed the ballot measure in 2016, according to the article. The change meant that DAs wishing to transfer youths to adult court had to seek a transfer from a juvenile court judge first. Judges would then weigh several factors before deciding to allow or deny a transfer.

SB1391 put a stop to all attempts to move youths under 16 to adult court. The bill prohibits the transfer of 14- and 15-year-old offenders to adult criminal court in nearly all circumstances. The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco decided that SB 1391 does not conflict with Prop. 57. Moreover, Justice Alison Tucher said that SB1391 “is consistent with and furthers Proposition 57’s goal of emphasizing rehabilitation.”

The appeals court ruling was unanimous, 3-0. Justice Turner writes:

“SB 1391 takes Proposition 57’s goal of promoting juvenile rehabilitation one step further by ensuring that almost all who commit crimes at the age of 14 or 15 will be processed through the juvenile system.”

The district attorney’s office could appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. We will continue to monitor SB 1391 in the coming months.


Orange County, CA Juvenile Criminal Attorney


Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh to learn how we can help your son or daughter. Attorney Walsh has the experience to advocate for your family and help bring about the best possible outcome. We understand that choosing the right firm to defend your child is not a simple task, but it is vital that families opt for one that is seasoned in juvenile court.

Katie Walsh is a former district attorney and a juvenile defense specialist. She is uniquely equipped to help young people overcome legal troubles. Please reach out to us today for a free consultation. (714) 619-9355

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Cal. Division of Juvenile Justice: Reorganization

juvenile justice
California Governor Gavin Newsom has big plans for the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice. Earlier this year, we shared that Gov. Newsom is proposing transferring control of the division away from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Soon, the California Health and Human Services Agency might be overseeing California’s young offenders.

The move is part of more than ten years of placing a greater emphasis on restorative justice. Experts tend to agree that when young people are given specific tools and support, they are more likely to change their ways. Research shows that punitive actions against young offenders, including detention, fuels a vicious cycle of recidivism.

On this blog, we make a sincere effort to apprise readers about novel approaches to the handling of juvenile justice. Research indicates that the majority of young individuals who find themselves suspended, expelled, or in trouble with the law, face enormous obstacles at home.

Many inmates in juvenile detention centers struggle with psychological or behavioral health issues. The goal is to put a stop to the school-to-prison pipeline in California and to get young people the assistance they require to succeed.

A new budget-related bill designates the proposed new agency the Department of Youth and Community Restoration, The Los Angeles Times reports. While the plan makes sense in theory, California probation chiefs have some significant concerns.

Chief Probation Officers Worry Over Reorganization


The plan to shift juvenile justice to the CHHS includes setting up a separate administrative office, according to the article. It also calls for a new training institute for officers and an internal oversight division.

It's come to light that those spearheading the shake-up never consulted with probation officials. Probation chiefs argue that they should be playing a more significant role in the proposed move. They also fear that the CHHS might struggle to provide adequate oversight or services, such as addiction treatment and life skills classes.

“It has taken decades to open lines of communication [with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation]. Until we know what will be accompanying [the governor’s proposal], a change in address doesn’t really always make a difference,” said Karen Pank, the executive director of Chief Probation Officers of California. 

The Legislative Analyst’s Office states that the administration has not offered enough information about the proposal, the article outlines. A recent report from the LAO indicates that it is unclear if the transition will increase access to rehabilitation programs for youth offenders.

The nonpartisan government agency, which provides fiscal and policy advice to the California Legislature, suggests that reorganization might result in higher costs for the state. Moreover, the transition could mean that some young people are subject to a disruption in vital services.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney


Parents of children, who are facing legal difficulties, can benefit from seeking the assistance of an experienced juvenile criminal attorney. Attorney Katie Walsh's legal experience in juvenile law makes her uniquely equipped to advocate for your family and help secure a favorable outcome.

Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh today for a free consultation. (714) 619-9355

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

California SB 1391 Under Fire

SB 1391 Under Fire
Last year, we took time to cover a controversial piece of legislation relevant to Californians—Senate Bill 1391. The multifaceted bill is meant to shift the focus away from incarceration and to reduce overcrowding in the criminal justice system. Moreover, SB 1391 addresses the “cradle to prison pipeline:” Opponents of the measure claim that it puts the needs of criminals over public safety.

As we reported, Governor Brown signed SB 1391 in the twilight of his gubernatorial tenure. In justifying the decision to endorse the bill, Governor Brown wrote: “There is a fundamental principle at stake here: whether we want a society which at least attempts to reform the youngest offenders before consigning them to adult prisons where their likelihood of becoming a lifelong criminal is so much higher.”

The controversial bill expands on the mandate of another piece of legislation, Proposition 57, passed in 2016. Under SB 1391 a district attorney can no longer 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.”

SB 1391 Under Fire


Despite the passing and signing of SB 1391, opponents continue to attack the bill, including local prosecutors. They argue that the legislation conflicts with what the voters approved when they decided to support Prop 57.

“Our position then, as now, is that 1391 is unconstitutional but (the legislature) passed it regardless,” said Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig.

Even though prosecutors across the state continue to voice opposition to SB 1391’s mandate, more than 100 legal scholars from California universities signed a February white paper calling for SB 1391 to be upheld, according to The Sacramento Bee. The law experts hail from the University of Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, University of California, San Francisco’s Hastings College of the Law, and Stanford and UC Berkeley’s law schools. In the letter, the scholars assert that “opponents of S.B. 1391 mischaracterize the law to manufacture a controversy that does not really exist.”

“I support reform. I’m OK with the science that juveniles’ brains aren’t fully formed and that they shouldn’t necessarily be sent to prison,” said Reisig. “But when you look at terrible, violent offenses – if somebody 15 years old can be released at 25, it makes no sense to me from the standpoint of public safety.”

Since January 1, 2019, Sacramento judges have had to consider at least four SB 1391 cases, according to the article. The same is true for judges in Kern, Riverside, Solano, and Yolo counties. The juvenile justice argument surrounding SB 1391 is sure to continue even as lawmakers propose even more reforms.

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland is proposing AB 1423. The bill, if passed, would allow minors whose felony cases were tried in adult court, then reduced to misdemeanors or dismissed, to file a petition to have their cases sent back to juvenile court.

California Juvenile Law Attorney


Attorney Katie Walsh has the experience to advocate for any family, no matter the crime, whose son or daughter is facing legal challenges. Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh today to learn how she can mount a rigorous, committed legal defense for your loved one.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Studying Restorative Justice in School

restorative justice in school
The push for restorative justice in California schools is thought to be a step in the right direction. Actions emphasizing the importance of child well-being, at home and in school, are a far cry from the punitive approaches of the past.

Rather than suspend or expel a student, some children are finding support. The goal is to keep young people in the classroom and out of the school-to-prison pipeline. California is one state that is moving away from disciplining students for minor offenses; choosing instead to focus on conflict mediation. 

Lawmakers are working hard to end suspensions for “disruption and defiance” in all grades. We recently covered the topic of Senate Bill 419, a bill that would ban out-of-school suspensions for “defiant and disruptive behavior” in grades K-12.

While the future of SB-419 is uncertain, the Golden State has already made progress in reducing suspension rates. According to the California Department of Education, 710,000 suspensions were issued during the 2011-12 school year in California. During the 2017-18 school year, only 363,000 students received suspensions.

Many people believe that the move away from punitive actions for relatively minor offenses is good. However, there is not much data on how reforms are improving school climates, Lake County Record-Bee reports. A new study aims to shed some light on this subject.

California School Safety Study


A five-year, $5-million study led by the Washington D.C.-based American Institutes for Research (AIR) is in an 18-month planning period stage, according to the article. Researchers are determining three California school districts to focus on in the next three-and-a-half years. AIR is working in conjunction with Virginia Tech University’s Laboratory for the Study of Youth Inequality and Public Counsel, a Los Angeles-based public interest law firm. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is funding the study. 

“We still have a misunderstanding of school safety, which most think of as the physical safety of students,” said Patricia Campie, AIR’s principal researcher for the study. “But the more important and more difficult thing is understanding the social and emotional safety of children.” 

The research team will look at multiple factors and consider the impact policies have on one demographic to the next. They will also consider how the outcomes differ in various areas, including urban, suburban or rural settings. The main areas of focus in the research, according to the article, include:
  • School discipline policies and how they are enforced;
  • how classmates treat students from different backgrounds and orientations;
  • and, whether there are people and protocols for addressing the trauma students experience at home and the quality of parent and community engagement.
Lead researcher Campie hopes that the findings will break school officials and policymakers of the mentality that one approach can work in every school. The final report could be available as early as 2022.

Orange County Juvenile Justice Attorney


The Offices of Katie Walsh has the experience to advocate for families whose children are facing disciplinary action in school. Expulsion can significantly derail a young person’s life and create more problems.

We understand that a school’s priority is to protect the school and the district in expulsion cases. With that in mind, it is vital that a family has a juvenile law expert to protect their child. Please contact us today for a free consultation.