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.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

California Juvenile Detention Centers Using Pepper Spray

juvenile detention
Pepper spray, like mace, is a non-lethal form of restraint that law enforcement agents utilize on a regular basis. The ingredients result in inflammation of the eyes and lungs, causing temporary vision loss and shortness of breath. Once disabled, officers are better able to restrain subjects. While the agent is less-than-lethal, there are instances when the chemical agent is a contributing factor in premature death.

In California, juvenile detention facility guidelines permit staffers to use pepper spray or oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, only as a last resort to de-escalate difficult situations, Los Angeles Daily News reports. However, a new report from the Los Angeles County’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) finds that officers are relying on pepper spray to subdue juveniles at an alarming rate, often using the lachrymatory agent unnecessarily.

The report was conducted at the behest of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (Board). The call for an investigation came after revelations brought to light last year that incidents involving oleoresin capsicum spray in juvenile detention facilities skyrocketed more than 150 percent from 2015 to 2017. The OIG report cites instances of juveniles being subjected to OC and are then left in their rooms without assistance, forced to rely on toilet water to clean/remove the oleoresin capsicum from their skin and eyes.

Initial or Intermediary Force Option


According to the report, thirty-five states have banned the use of OC spray in juvenile facilities. California is just one of six states that allow the use of pepper spray on youths housed in detention centers. Such facilities include Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, Central Juvenile Hall, Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall, Camp Ellison Onizuka, and Camp Ronald McNair. There are California counties that prohibit juvenile detention officers from deploying OC, encouraging the use of other de-escalation techniques instead, i.e., San Francisco County, Santa Cruz County, Marin County, and Santa Clara County.

The OIG report underscores the need for more de-escalation training, especially in Los Angeles County. Cathleen Beltz, assistant inspector general, said the goal is to reduce or eliminate the use of OC within LA County’s juvenile facilities. The investigators found consistent use of OC spray as an “initial or intermediary force option, rather than as one that follows a failure to de-escalate or the use of less significant force.”

“The fundamental issue here is not about the tools that staff use,” said Terri McDonald, LA County chief probation officer. “The question is, how can we create a culture or environment in which force is a rarity?” 

McDonald adds that the department will not tolerate “unnecessary or excessive force in our facilities…A single case of abuse of our youth is one too many.” The chief probation officer is not opposed to doing away with the use of OC, “But a change of this magnitude will require thoughtful analysis, planning, training, and potentially increased resources to ensure institutional safety.”

California Juvenile Defense Attorney


As a former juvenile prosecutor, attorney Katie Walsh has the experience and understanding of the law to advocate for your son or daughter who is facing legal trouble. Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh for a free consultation and to learn how she will use her expertise to defend and achieve a favorable outcome for your loved one.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

New Laws Affecting California Juveniles

school expulsion
School suspension and expulsion rates is a topic of significant concern in the United States. The data tells us that when young people are excluded from participating in class, due to behavioral issues, they are at severe risk of facing problems later in life. Evidence shows that discipline inside the classroom, as well as outside the classroom, can have lasting impacts on children.

Teachers have incredibly challenging jobs. On average, they have to keep as many as 30 young people in line for hours at a time and to ensure that they learn the skills to move forward. Having just one disruptive student in the classroom can affect the experience of all other students. In the past, the standard protocol would be to separate unruly students from the well-behaved. Continued infractions often result in suspension and/or expulsion for severe cases.

Here in California, a number of laws have been passed in recent years to help put an end to the school-to-prison pipeline. SB 439 establishes 12 years as the minimum age for prosecution in juvenile court. SB 1391 makes it unlawful to try youths under the age of 16 as an adult.

In 2014, a law was enacted to ban the suspension of students in grades K-3 for acts of “disruption and defiance.” Last year, California Senator Nancy Skinner attempted to get Senate Bill 607 signed by Governor Jerry Brown, which would have expanded the 2014 law up to eighth grade. Unfortunately, Governor Brown did not go along with the expansion, but it is likely that the effort to end disruption and defiance suspensions will continue.

Positive New Laws Affecting Young People In California


While former Gov. Brown did not get on board with SB 607, he did sign Assembly Bill 752. The legislation prohibits state-funded preschools from expelling students, Voice of OC report. This year, preschoolers can be expelled, only after all other alternatives to support the children or family have been exhausted.

Assembly Bill (AB) 2698 is another piece of legislation of note; it increases access to critical early childhood mental health consultation services for infants and toddlers. The bill puts more mental health consultants into publicly funded preschools and child care centers.

 “As a teacher of 30 years in Orange County, I was able to gain profound insight into the importance of meeting the needs of our young children and their families. Improving services to support early childhood education will always remain a priority,” said Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva.


California Juvenile Justice Attorney


Please contact the Law Offices of Katie Walsh if your child is facing a school expulsion hearing in California. Attorney Walsh is a former prosecutor who is familiar with the juvenile court system. Our team can answer your school expulsion questions and advocate for your family.