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.