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.