Katie's Blog

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.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Closing Juvenile Hall in San Francisco

San Francisco juvenile hall
Youth incarceration is a significant topic of discussion in California from one end of the state to the other. The question of how to best serve young people who struggle is one that many individuals are trying to answer. A primary goal is to keep children out of detention centers and in the classroom. 

Across the United States, youth crime rates are falling. Last week, we discussed some of the reasons behind the unprecedented drop in serious crime committed by minors. After the San Francisco Chronicle published a report bringing the trend to light, lawmakers in Northern California are taking action.

In response to The Chronicle’s reporting, three San Francisco supervisors are aiming for the juvenile hall in the city, the S.F. Chronicle reports. Hillary Ronen, Shamann Walton, and Matt Haney are drafting legislation that would close the city’s detention center and all but end the practice of jailing youths. If the lawmaker's efforts prove successful, it will make San Francisco the only city in California without a juvenile hall.

Meredith Desautels, a staff attorney the Youth Law Center, tells The Chronicle the proposed move is in line with current research. Studies show that incarceration is harmful to young people. She said that closing juvenile hall “would provide the shock to the system that we need to change our thinking about how to approach youth who have gotten into trouble.”

San Francisco’s juvenile hall has 150 beds, according to the article. However, usually fewer than 50 youths are held inside at one time. The money spent on keeping the center open and housing youths could better be spent on innovative programs instead. Last year, the annual cost of housing a child reached $266,000.

“We’re done with jailing kids,” said Supervisor Ronen.

Meanwhile, In Los Angeles


While SF Supervisors have their sights on closing juvenile hall, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have questions about unspent state funding intended to reduce juvenile delinquency, KNBC reports. Some $79 million sits in reserve, while valuable programs lack operating funds, says Supervisor Janice Hahn.

"It is unacceptable that nonprofits dedicated to supporting youth are underfunded while millions of dollars meant for them are going unused," said Hahn. "We need immediate clarity on these funds and a plan to get them out into the community as quickly as possible." 

A motion was put forth – co-authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas – to expedite a scheduled audit of the problem, according to the article. Supervisor Hahn also points out that the Probation Department's budget doesn’t show signs of making the necessary moves toward prevention and community-based interventions.

It seems that the Probation Department is at odds with the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council (JJCC) which oversees state funding. The latter has a plan to dedicate more resources toward county services to community-based organizations, the article reports. The former’s budget plan does not match the JJCC’s.

Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.


Southern California Juvenile Law Attorney


At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in juvenile defense. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Walsh has a unique set of skills that she can utilize when advocating for your family. If your son or daughter is charged with a crime or is facing a school expulsion hearing, we can help your family achieve the best possible outcome. Please contact us today. (714) 619-9355

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Youth Crime Decline in the UnIted States

youth crime
“The school-to-prison pipeline starts and ends with schools,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, in 2013.

When kids are in the classroom, they are much less likely to engage in risky behaviors. It is so important that school districts across the country do what they can to keep young people in school, and off the street. Suspension and expulsion are warranted at times, but providing struggling young people with support can prevent the need, in many cases.

The juvenile crime rate, especially violent youth offenses, is on the decline, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. While law enforcement experts point out that crime is cyclical, an unexpected, three-decade trend is underway. Since the 1990s, youth assaults, homicides, theft, and truancy have steadily decreased.

When a unique pattern occurs, it is only natural for experts to speculate on the reasons why. The school-to-prison pipeline still exists, but it seems that some initiatives have had a welcome effect. Perhaps most interesting is that the decline in youth violent crime transcends demographics.

What’s Behind The Youth Crime Drop?


There are so many variables to consider, factors that could influence juvenile crime rates. It’s challenging to put one’s finger on the driving force behind the decrease in youth criminality. Jill Tucker, writing for the SF Chronicle, lays out some of the likely catalysts in ever-falling youth crime rates in the United States. Tucker has been writing about education in California for 18 years.

Some leading theories on what is influencing this nationwide trend include a decline in “crack” cocaine use, according to the article. In the 1980s and ’90s, urban youths were exploited by drug dealers to sell crack on “the corner.” Adolescents and teens were ideal candidates because they are not subject to adult drug laws.

Other leading hypotheses for the trend in question involve reductions in lead exposure and adult mass incarceration. According to one study, lead (a once common ingredient of paint and gasoline) can disrupt brain development, thus influencing impulse and behavior regulation. In recent decades, the adult prison population has risen exponentially; causing some experts to theorize that there are fewer criminals to lure youths into crime.

Improvements in education is another topic of serious consideration. The decline in youth violent crime happens to coincide with more kids in preschool and the launch and spread of education programs. After-school programs can keep kids out of trouble. The article notes that the high school graduation rate hit 85 percent in 2017, following a two-decade trend. The combination of all three factors has likely had an impact on crime reduction.

“The nation needs to focus dollars and efforts on reforming school climates to keep students engaged in ways that will lead them toward college and a career and away from crime and prison,” said Bob Wise.

Orange County School Expulsion Attorney


The Law Offices of Katie Walsh specializes in helping families whose sons and daughters are facing the prospect of school expulsion. Attorney Walsh understands that a minor infraction can have a significant impact on a child’s future. She can advocate for your family.

Please contact us at your earliest convenience to learn more about we help you and your loved one negotiate alternatives to expulsion.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

California’s Department of Juvenile Justice: Violence & Neglect

juvenile justice
The new year brought a new California governor, Gavin Newsom, and with him a plan to move the Division of Juvenile Justice to the state’s Health and Human Services Agency. Transitioning juvenile justice away from the corrections departments may result in significant changes for the better, but only time will tell. This Governor’s announcement came just before the release of a report highlighting severe issues at the four juvenile detention state facilities.

Data from the Division of Juvenile Justice et al. indicates that the state’s 650 incarcerated youths are 20 times more likely to have experienced use of force by staffers, compared to adult prisoners, Mother Jones reports. Moreover, over the last three-years, beatings have increased dramatically, juvenile detention staffers have become more aggressive, and attempted suicides are on the rise.

Up until February 2016, the California juvenile justice system seemed to be doing relatively well in regard to its handling of youth offenders. The reason being is that a 2003 lawsuit settlement led to a court-appointed special master who monitored the division to ensure the DJJ was treating youth detainees humanely, offering adequate medical care, and providing rehabilitative programs. More than ten years of oversight led a state court judge to rule that the agency was compliant and the special master no longer necessary. In three short years, a lot appears to have changed.

Use of Force Jumps Three-Fold


The alarming report indicates that youths housed in juvenile detention facilities were 49 percent more likely to be assaulted, compared to the special masters final year of oversight, according to the article. Researchers found that nearly a third of detainees have experienced a violent incident each month; and, youths involved in riots rose 13 percent in the year following the end of court monitoring. 

Almost all young offenders interviewed for the report shared having witnessed or being subject to guard on inmate violence personally. DJJ use of force tripled in the year following the end of court monitoring. The analysis from the inspector general found that 45 percent of such incidents, including the use of pepper spray, were out of compliance with the agency’s policies.

State facilities saw three attempted suicides between August 2015 to July 2016. In the year following the end of the special master’s monitoring, there were ten attempted suicides. Youths interviewed for the report stated too often their medical needs were not taken seriously, and they were subject to long waits to receive care. In response to the startling findings, Ike Dodson, a DJJ spokesman, said in a statement to Mother Jones:

“While we acknowledge that the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) works with some of California’s most challenged youth, DJJ has been on the frontline of reforming the way juveniles serve their time through education, programs, effective treatment and mental health services.” 

We will continue to follow what comes of this report, but it seems likely some reforms will be on the horizon.


Orange County Juvenile Defense Attorney


Juvenile defense attorney Katie Walsh goes to significant lengths to ensure each of her client's cases stands out from the others. Aided by her previous experience as a juvenile prosecutor, she is uniquely equipped to advocate for families whose children are facing legal difficulties. Please contact us today to learn how we can help you obtain the best possible outcomes.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Expanding Ban On Willful Defiance Suspensions

willful defiance suspensions
School “disruption and defiance” is a subject we follow closely at The Law Offices of Katie Walsh. Disruption is probably self-explanatory; willful defiance is defined as: “disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of school staff.” In the State of California, a 2014 law prohibits K-3 out-of-school suspensions for the above type of offense.

Since 2014, several lawmakers have come out in favor of expanding the ban on disruption and defiance suspensions. Many experts contend that removing kids from classrooms for disrupting class fuels what has come to be known as the “school-to-prison” pipeline. Moreover, the data indicate that these types of suspensions disproportionately affect blacks and Latinos, LGBT students, and students with disabilities.

“When you look at the data on who is suspended, you can’t help but see the stark reality,” Sen. Nancy Skinner tells EdSource. “Boys of color, kids in special education, LGBTQ kids — kids who don’t fit all of our cultural norms — are targeted due to the implicit bias that we know is present in every institution we have.”

In many instances, students are acting up because of family issues at home or untreated mental health issues. Extricating a student from the classroom or school entirely, for lengths of time, is unlikely to address the underlying problems the adolescent or teenager is facing. Expanding the ban on specific types of out-of-school suspensions could lead to more kids getting support and guidance. Alternative means of discipline could help children learn to cope with their issues healthily rather than acting out for attention.

Arguments For and Against Disruption and Defiance Bans


Those against expanding the ban of willful defiance suspensions argue that it strips teachers of the power to keep order and that it infringes on the other (disciplined) students right to learn without constant distraction. The camp for expansion say that suspending students for merely acting up puts them on a course to more problems, Education Dive reports. The divergent opinions on this subject will soon be in the spotlight once again, owing that is to legislation re-introduced by California State Sen. Nancy Skinner.

Last October, former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 607; a bill that would have expanded “disruption and defiance” out-of-school suspensions to include K-8. Sen. Skinner always wanted the ban to include K-12, but she didn’t believe Gov. Brown would support; so, she settled for a bill narrower in scope. Even still, Brown rejected the proposal. Now, with Brown out of office, Sen. Skinner hopes that Gov. Gavin Newsom will support her cause.

Senate Bill 419: Pupil discipline: suspensions: willful defiance would ban out-of-school suspensions for “defiant and disruptive behavior” in grades K-12. The bill, until January 1, 2025, would prohibit the suspension of a student in any of grades 9 to 12, inclusive, for those acts. The five-year period (sunset clause) will give officials time to determine the effectiveness of alternative discipline measures with high-schoolers.

“The point of the evaluation is to make sure that the removal of this tool (suspensions) is not impacting classrooms or teachers in a negative way,” Skinner said. 

The Governor’s office has yet to comment on SB 419.


Orange County School Expulsion Attorney


Juvenile defense attorney Katie Walsh can help your family navigate the school discipline process. If your child is facing school expulsion, then please contact us at your earliest convenience. Katie Walsh will work tirelessly to safeguard your child’s rights and seek alternatives to school expulsion for your son or daughter.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Mental Health, Expulsions, and School Shootings

school shooting
At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we are acutely familiar with the school-to-prison pipeline that is the reality of many young Americans. Problems students experience in the classroom are often dealt with in punitive ways, starting with suspension and potentially moving on to expulsion. In more severe cases, certain offenses committed at school can result in police intervention.

Schools lacking the resources to advocate for troubled children will usually turn to punitive measures. However, in states like California, there has been a push in recent years to address the needs of children who act up without resorting to suspension and expulsion.

Data shows that young people who face problems at home are likely to bring them into the classroom. Merely booting a child from class may return order to the school, but it is expected to disrupt the life of the child facing difficulties even more. Intervention techniques that don’t involve removing children from class can significantly help a struggling student; and, they may prevent a worst-case scenario from unfolding down the road. The reality is that many teenagers are dealing with myriad problems, including a mental health condition; kicking such teens out of the classroom can and has resulted in the unthinkable.

Preventing School Shooting In America


School shootings are not a new phenomenon; nor are they uncommon. From the Columbine High School shooting to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre last year, it is clear that these kinds of tragic events are on the rise. Today, it is difficult to think of a state that hasn’t been touched by student-on-student or student-on-teacher murder. Moreover, it is challenging to make sense of what could drive a young person to commit such heinous acts.

Experts work hard to look for answers in a sea of data that is murky at best. Those who bring a weapon to school with the intention to harm come from various backgrounds and face their own unique set of circumstances. Recently, NPR’s Rhitu Chatterjee probed the depths of school shootings in America—helping the average listener make sense of these senseless acts.

The radio program points out, right off the bat, that there were 25 school shootings last year; more than 60 people were injured, and 33 children and adults lost their lives in those incidents. We invite you to listen to the program below before reading further:


If you are having trouble listening, please click here.

Several experts weigh in in an accompanying article to the radio program. Some common things begin to emerge among people who shed blood in public schools, including childhood trauma and mental illness. What’s more, a 2004 study by the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education found that nearly three-quarters of school shooters had been bullied or harassed at school. Chatterjee points out that suspending or expelling students who are showing worrisome signs is not the solution. Instead, school violence can be prevented by support and guidance.

“Connecting with these students, listening to them and supporting them, getting them the help they need, these researchers say, can help prevent future attacks and make schools a safer place for all children.”

School Expulsions Attorney


If your son or daughter is at risk of being expelled from school, then it is vital for parents to know that they have options. Attorney Katie Walsh has the experience to advocate for your family and potentially keep disciplinary action from derailing your child’s life. Please contact our office for a free consultation.