Katie's Blog

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Reducing Suspension and Expulsion Rates

suspension expulsion
At high schools across America, suspension and expulsion should only be a last resort. Young people who act up in class or break school policies are often dealing with problems at home. They may also be contending with emotional and mental health problems that inhibit their ability to stay focused.

When school districts remove children from the classroom, it can put teens on a path toward more significant problems in the future. No longer receiving support from educators, suspended and expelled youths are at considerable risk of engaging in activities that can land them in handcuffs. Student's removals are the beginning of the school-to-prison pipeline.

School districts that take measures to keep youths in class have an opportunity to affect change. Helping students understand why their behavior is problematic, and what they can do to cope with their feelings, is essential. When young people are given the tools to respond to situations in healthy ways, they are less likely to get into more trouble down the road.

Many U.S. schools are moving away from resorting to using punitive disciplinary actions. Research shows that student bodies benefit from providing support programs. Providing teenagers access to counselors and psychologists is a step towards reducing problems in the classroom. The data indicates that intervention programs are more effective at encouraging adolescents to change their behavior than removing them from class.

Intervention Programs Reduce Suspension and Expulsion Rates


The Antelope Valley Union High School District in northern Los Angeles County has taken steps in reducing class removals. In the last decade, the district’s suspension rate fell 47%, and the expulsion rate dropped 79%, according to the Antelope Valley Press. Educators were able to achieve this feat by implementing intervention programs.

Instead of resorting to suspension and expulsion, schools attempt to address the unique needs of students first. When a teenage boy or girl gets in trouble, the AVUHSD relies on a discipline matrix to help determine what level of intervention is warranted. The district had student support centers, and four social workers were hired to work with at-risk youths.

Youths who are directed to AVUHSD support centers, work with counselors, psychologists, and social workers. They have opportunities to discuss what is happening outside of school; they can learn coping mechanisms that are less disruptive to the class. The goal is to help at-risk teens learn from their mistakes and excel.

“When a student has to be removed from class they are placed in an environment where their social and emotional needs are met,” said a district official said. “The goal is addressing it and getting them back in the classroom.” 

Support centers have paid off; from 2017-18 to 2018-19, suspensions decreased 13% and expulsions 31%.

Orange County Juvenile Attorney


If your son or daughter is in trouble at school, and facing a school expulsion hearing, The Law Offices of Katie Walsh can help. It is vital to have an attorney who can advocate for your family. Juvenile defender Katie Walsh as a school expulsion lawyer has handled thousands of cases and may be able to negotiate alternatives to expulsion.

Please contact our office today for a free consultation. Call Today 714 · 619 · 9355

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Grant Funds Youth Diversion Efforts in California

juvenile justice
In 2017, the Santa Barbara County Probation Department began an internal investigation and data mining project. The goal was to determine if there could be policy and practice reforms that might benefit at-risk youths and keep them out of the juvenile justice system, The Santa Maria Sun reports. A comparison of county data revealed that children in Santa Barbara County were being detained and supervised by probation at higher rates than those in similar counties.

A large percentage of children who find themselves in the juvenile justice system have a history of mental illness and behavioral health problems. Such youths often have trauma resulting from abuse. However, many of these young people are not a threat to public safety.

Some experts believe that detaining adolescents with mental health problems is not the answer. Youths benefit from programs that emphasize therapy rather than detention.

This spring, the Santa Barbara County Probation Department was among 16 organizations from across the nation that received specialized diversion training.

Grant Funds Youth Diversion Efforts


The California Board of State and Community Corrections is awarding the Probation Department with a four-year $795,000 Youth Reinvestment Grant, according to the article. The funds will enable Santa Barbara County to offer struggling juveniles diversion programs at no cost to families.

“It’s an exciting opportunity and sits in very well with all the other initiatives we’ve been rolling out since the data mining,” said Holly Benton, Santa Barbara County’s deputy chief probation officer. 

Young people with mental health and substance use problems do not belong behind bars. Offering evidence-based therapies and support in school to kids who are struggling will pay off in the long run. Those in the juvenile justice system are far more likely to be in the adult criminal justice system one day.

Benton points out that one of the reasons diversion programs have had limited success is due to money. Typically, parents are expected to cover the cost when their children are eligible for diversion. Being able to offer mental health and family counseling at no cost could significantly improve success rates.

The Probation Department will work closely with the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (CADA), law enforcement, schools, and community members. Some of the grant money will fund a UC Santa Barbara study to assess which programs are reducing recidivism rates.

Santa Barbara’s new diversion program will likely begin sometime in the fall.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Lawyer


If your child is facing legal difficulties or school expulsion, then please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh. As a former prosecutor, attorney Walsh is uniquely equipped to advocate for the needs of your family and help bring about a favorable outcome.

Call juvenile defense attorney Katie Walsh at 714.619.9355 today to learn more.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Appeals Court Upholds SB 1391

SB 1391
In May, we wrote about the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejecting Solano County’s challenge to Senate Bill 1391. At the time, we pointed out that California counties would likely continue to take issue with this controversial piece of legislation.

For those who don’t know, SB 1391 bars prosecutors from trying 14- and 15-year-olds as adults. The bill is part of a broad effort across the state to place a greater emphasis on rehabilitation for young people on the wrong side of the law.

Last week, advocates of SB 1391 received another victory when a state appeals court in Sacramento ruled the law is constitutional, The Sacramento Bee reports. The bill is meant to serve as an extension of the reforms laid out in 2016’s Proposition 57.

Naturally, many prosecutors across the state are unhappy with last Wednesday’s ruling. District attorneys and victim families are some of SB 1391’s staunchest opponents.

Next Stop, The California Supreme Court


“Senate Bill 1391 does not conflict with Proposition 57, but advances its stated intent and purpose to reduce the number of youths to be tried in adult court, reduce the number of incarcerated persons in state prisons, and emphasize rehabilitation for juveniles,” the appellate court wrote.

The decisions, in San Francisco last month and in Sacramento a week ago, to support the new legislation all but guarantees that the California Supreme Court will take up the matter. Much is at stake for both young defendants and the families who would like to see justice for their loved ones. 

“We have received the Court of Appeal’s decision and we are considering the option of further appellate relief,” said Sacramento County Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Rod Norgaard. 

Before Prop. 57, prosecutors were permitted to charge 14- and 15-year-olds as adults in severe cases. Being tried in adult criminal court and being found guilty carries much longer sentences than what is handed down in juvenile court. SB 1391 prevents moving youths under 16 to adult court.

At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we will continue to follow this remarkable story as it develops.

Southern California Juvenile Defense Attorney


Attorney Katie Walsh’s experience, both as a former prosecutor and juvenile defense attorney, makes her uniquely equipped to advocate for your loved one. Please contact us today for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help your family. (714) 619-9355

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