Tuesday, August 27, 2019

ACLU Lawsuit Ends YAT Program

YAT Program
Last summer, we wrote about the Riverside County Youth Accountability Team Program (YAT) and how it treated teens, never convicted of crimes, as criminals. The program was designed to scare kids, mostly black and Latinos, straight. However, all the initiative did was contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline. Kids whose only infractions were a failure to cooperate with school faculty members found themselves on probation.

As we pointed out last year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Northern California, San Diego, and the National Center for Youth Law filed a lawsuit to end the YAT program. In July, the ACLU announced that their efforts paid off; a settlement was reached with the federal district court that severs the relationship between Riverside County school districts and the probation department.

The YAT program has been in place since 2001; thousands of young people have been needlessly affected and had their rights violated since its inception. Probation is not an effective way to address the needs of children who have bad grades or struggle with trauma and mental health issues. The proposed settlement will hopefully lead to kids getting much-needed resources.

Setting an Example for the Nation


Even though research shows that juvenile probation is ineffective and even harmful to young people, that was the model for the last 18 years. Youths who were unable to stay on track in school found themselves in the criminal justice system.

The ACLU was able to show the court that the YAT program subjected kids to lengthy lists of conditions with zero-tolerance consequences. Young people in the program were regularly drug tested and had to deal with surprise searches of their home and person.

Rather than diverting students to law enforcement for non-criminal offenses like truancy and defiance, they will now receive counseling and other school and community-based supports. The ACLU writes that the county has committed reinvesting millions of dollars in community organizations that will better serve young people than the criminal justice system.

Students who commit crimes will be guaranteed the right to legal representation throughout the entirety of diversion. They will no longer be subject to rules and restrictions that violate their rights. What’s more, probation officers will undergo specialized training to ensure they comply with the new protocols.

The ACLU hopes that Riverside County’s new approach will one day serve as a model for juvenile justice nationwide.

Orange County, CA Juvenile Criminal Attorney


If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges or a school expulsion hearing in California, then The Law Offices of Katie Walsh can help. Attorney Walsh has the experience and knowledge to advocate for your family effectively. Please contact us today to learn more.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Suspension and Expulsion, in Preschool

suspension and expulsion
Kicking young people out of school for misbehaving is nothing new, but it is an issue that requires consideration. The science tells us that removing kids, of all ages, from classrooms for minor infractions can start them on a path toward further problems. The school-to-prison pipeline begins with suspension and expulsion.

While most people associate class removals with high school students, it’s also a common occurrence at middle schools, elementary, and preschools. If you find it hard to believe that preschoolers could do anything so severe as to warrant suspension or expulsion, then you are not alone. However, the practice is far more common than you’d probably think.

A 2016 federal study found that an estimated 50,000 preschoolers had been suspended in the previous year, according to the Center for American Progress. Moreover, some 17,000 preschoolers were expelled during the same period. That is 250 youngsters who were being removed from the classroom each day.

Actions have been taken by lawmakers and school officials to end the practice of suspending and expelling the youngest Americans in recent years. California has banned suspending children in grades K-3 for disrupting or willful defiance. Lawmakers have passed legislation that would expand the existing law to include students up to 8th grade. Unfortunately, many young children residing in other states do not have the same protections.

Suspension and Expulsion in Preschool


Even in states that have protections for young people, that encourage schools to intervene rather than expel, a significant number of kids are falling through the cracks. NBC News reports that children under five are being suspended and expelled from preschool, even though they live in cities and states that have acted to prevent such occurrences.

A study conducted in 2005 shows that preschoolers are three times more likely to be expelled. The numbers are even more severe when looking at young people of color and those with disabilities. Another study shows that kids who are removed from classrooms are ten times more likely to drop out of high school. They are at more significant risk of being arrested too.

Laws prohibiting the suspension and expulsion of young people are a step in the right direction. However, not enough is being done to train teachers and fund intervention programs, according to the article. Cemeré James, senior vice president of policy for the National Black Child Development Institute, said:

“When you institute a ban and just a ban with no funds and no support for implementation, you in my opinion are basically doing nothing. If there’s no funding to train teachers and educators to engage with young children in new and different ways, then you’re not changing anything.” 

Teachers must be taught effective techniques for supporting young people. Acting out in class is often a sign that a child is having problems at home or is struggling with emotional and cognitive issues. California has more resources than the vast majority of states and can provide resources to preschools, the article reports. Mental health professionals work with educators to help them better meet the needs of challenging students. 

Orange County School Expulsion Attorney


Attorney Katie Walsh has extensive experience in school discipline matters. If your son or daughter is facing the prospect of expulsion, then it helps to have a representative who can advocate for your loved one’s well-being. Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh to learn how we can help you negotiate alternatives to expulsion.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

California CROWN Act Addresses Hairstyle Discrimination

CROWN Act
Research suggests that corporate and academic grooming policies unfairly impact black women in the workplace. Dove and the Crown Coalition, a group of beauty industry leaders, civil rights activists and legislators, sponsored a survey to learn more about discrimination relating to hairstyles. 

The survey shows that black women receive formal grooming policies at a rate significantly higher than White women, according to Diverse. Black women also reported they were 80 percent more likely to change their natural hair to meet social or employment expectations.

An earlier study from 2016, conducted by Ohio State University's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, discovered that black girls were disciplined in the state's public schools because of their natural hairstyles. Meaning that black girls are often threatened with suspension and expulsion because schools contend that the student's hair is a disruption.

The authors of the Ohio study write that the disturbing trend "is deeply connected to long-standing Westernized notions of beauty…yet again, this highlights the ways in which black girls are penalized for their incongruity with 'traditional' White notions of womanhood."

California’s CROWN Act


Hairstyles of black people are a part of their heritage; and it's hard to believe that young girls and women are punished for their natural hair in the 21st Century. In an attempt to reduce instances of discrimination in California, lawmakers passed the CROWN Act (“Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair”).

The Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair or Senate Bill 188 is meant to combat discrimination based on hairstyles. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law on July 3.

The law prohibits employers from enforcing purportedly "race-neutral" grooming policies. The legislation was sponsored by State Sen. Holly Mitchell, who also wears her hair in locs. An author of the Ohio study titled "Race Matters . . . And So Does Gender," Robin A. Wright from the University of Cincinnati, says:

"I actually hear it more from young men, particularly, but also women, that they believe they have to cut off their dreads in order to get a job in corporate America." She adds that "It's ridiculous that we need a law like this in 2019, but our kids and [other] folks are still being discriminated against." 

California is at the top of the list of progressive states, so it makes sense that it is the first state to pass this type of legislation. However, New York approved a similar bill earlier this year, which protects black people's right to wear natural hairstyles.

Many nonprofits support the CROWN Act, and state and national organizations, including the California Employment Lawyers Association, California School Board Association, and the California Teachers Association. According to RadioFacts: "SB 188 will ensure protection against discrimination based on hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the California Education Code."

California School Discipline Attorney


Please contact The Law Office of Katie Walsh if your child is being discriminated against because of their hairstyle, and may be facing suspension or expulsion. Attorney Walsh has the experience to advocate for your loved one effectively.