Brown v. Board of Education – 50 Years Later

Addressing the Needs of At-Risk Students
To Reduce the Number of Children Entering the Justice System

A Community Dialogue Hosted by
The Miami-Dade Community Relations Board &
The Law Offices of Public Defender Bennett H. Brummer

February 25, 2005

 

Workgroup A.

How can we assist public schools in identifying children at risk and promote academic success?

Proactive efforts

* Targeting children from birth to 21 years of age for referrals to “Child Find”

* The school district provides diagnostics for ages 3-5

* Referrals from: Head Start, Daycare, Screening sources, Self-referrals Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System (FDLRS) South

Benefits

Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) could collaborate with “FDLRS/Child Find” on a special as-needed basis; helping offenders navigate through the various systems while also getting help for younger siblings.

* What would be the role of the “Children’s Trust”?

* Why should we be concerned? Try to intervene early; you hear children unable to read or articulate.

* Human Services Coalition is already providing similar guidance

Q: What about training of workers or/and volunteers?

Q: When can help be provided?

* Before arrest

* After adjudication

* Self-referral

* Court mandated

* Alerts from the community or extended family member

* Clinics/hospitals

* Shelters

Teen Court

* Mentoring

* Judgment by peers

* Assessments

* Case management

* Crisis intervention

* School has “at risk” definition- what is it? Red flags identified by agencies and others who work with children

* Grade level delayed

* Disruptive in classroom

* Violent outburst

* Aggressive behavior

Recommendations

* A service fair (for providers/users) workshop for front-line staff (counselors, contact person at each school (e.g., Juvenile Probation Officers, Public Defender’s Office, State Attorney’s Office)

* JAC (Central Clearinghouse) for ID of risk factors and connecting to schools and appropriate services (early ID of risk factors associated with all the children in the family)

* Trained staff and volunteers:

At daycare centers

In the schools

Parks and recreation

Public service announcements

Community-based activity centers

Places of worship

Senior centers

*Educate assessors of children to identify educational and development deficits and each child’s strengths. Associated with public information PSAS (page 1)

*Development of Community Coalition to oversee and monitor the quality of programs and services. (early intervention, prevention, delinquencies)

Action – Build on the work of the CRB to increase participation and effect implementation of the programs in various communities

* Alerts from the “CRB” (we need, we have, you are eligible for) a conference that brings agencies and community based non-profits for the purpose of showcasing the impact they are having on communities.

Work group B:

What can juvenile justice practitioners and stakeholders do to improve the educational outcomes of children in delinquency court?

Recommendations:

  1. Support client families by making resources easily accessible, and provide a contact person and regular feedback, as well as services specifically for parents, such as literacy programs.
  2. Identify the etiology of the problem (i.e., the wound) through effective assessment, and use appropriate resources to address the child’s specific needs at whatever stage of the continuum the child is in. For example, rely on the school guidance counselor as an important resource for academic and psycho-social background.
  3. Make written pre-dispositional reports (PDR’s) the norm. Staffings that involve all parties foster investment in the terms and conditions of probation, and help clarify the problems and the goals. Written PDR’s insure a paper trial that fosters accountability for the child, parent and the system.
  4. Include an “academic plan” in each PDR. Miami-Dade County Public Schools has a juvenile justice liaison person available at each school who could consult on the PDR. Make contacts with the district liaisons the norm for Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) and other social workers.
  5. Assess what type of learner the child is as a means of focusing on individual strengths.
  6. Focus on resources and programs that will empower both the parent/guardian and the child.
  7. Create programmatic opportunities that foster more peer-mentoring relationships (as used in Drug Court and in the peer culture model of Baypoint Schools).
  8. Build a community consensus that insists on more permanent, “juvenile savvy” staff in agencies that make key delinquency/sentencing decisions.
  9. Rely on “Restorative Justice” practices especially for school/domestic offenses.
  10. Research Best Practice model for alternatives to suspension.

Group C:

How can crime prevention and early intervention programs be strengthened to improve educational outcomes?

Prevention and early intervention programs can:

* Coordinate their activities to reinforce the educational objectives of schools in their target areas

* Assist in identifying and involving corporate and other volunteer mentors for student support and tutoring, e.g. seniors to read to elementary school students, student “big brother/sister” initiatives, etc.

* Serve as advocates for public education; identify and share observations of barriers that prevent children from learning

* Link participants in these programs and their families with school and other educational resources

* Integrate interventions and activities focused on the problem of truancy/suspensions among students, e.g. provide alternative education support programs for suspended students.

* In programs involving parents, develop or expand efforts to inform and engage them in activities related to the education of their children, e.g. partner with a school to recruit and enhance the involvement of parents in the PTA

* Educate parents about their role in their child’s education and in school policies

* Provide positive rewards and public acknowledgement of educational achievement and success among children served by these programs

* Pilot innovative ways to integrate “education” in ongoing activities, e.g. theatre: reading and speech; football: computing game statistics, etc.

* Assure that children who participate in these programs and who are believed to have special educational needs/deficits, are appropriately referred to school personnel.

Other suggestions included:

* Lending support to other community efforts to enhance educational resources such as school equipment, teacher training, etc.

* Enhance the requirements and resources for educating youth in the juvenile detention/juvenile justice system

Workgroup D:

To reduce the disproportionate number of minority children in delinquency court

Recommends:

  1. Revise the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI), used by juvenile court judges and the JAC to determine whether a child should be detained or released, to eliminate factors that are out of the child’s control. For example, whether a child failed to appear often depends on whether an adult provided the necessary transportation.
  2. Develop “suspension centers” as an alternative to indoor and outdoor suspension, to manage student misbehavior while ensuring children are in a learning environment.
  3. Review and revise the Code of Conduct to ensure an objective suspension process.
  4. Mandate “Positive Behavioral Support” for all Dade County schools, to ensure all students have the opportunity to benefit from this behavioral approach.
  5. Review the number of referrals to “Positive Behavioral Support” to ensure that it is not being used punitively or excessively for African-American students.
  6. Expedite evaluations and implementation of Individualized Education Programs to ensure that exceptional students receive appropriate services in a timely manner.
  7. School evaluations should include home assessments to ensure the evaluation encompasses all aspects of the child’s learning environment.
  8. Increase training opportunities for all parties, including parenting classes, to ensure that the people who interact with at-risk children have the skills necessary to maximize their potential.
  9. Require home visits by teachers, to ensure student staffing recommendations can be and have been implemented.
  10. Phase out middle schools and develop K-8 centers to improve the education and social transition of pre-teens.
  11. Review police arrest activity to determine whether there is an “over-policing” of minority communities.
  12. Provide sensitivity training for police officers and detention center staff to ensure they understand that an incarcerated child is still a child, regardless of the charges, and that our children must be treated with dignity and respect, not exposed to aggressive, hostile behavior, if we want them to develop respect for the law and authority.
  13. Review charging decisions by the SAO to ensure they are not “over-charging” minority children, in light of the DJJ statistics that seem to indicate the Eleventh Judicial Circuit has proportionally higher felony to misdemeanor charges for juveniles than any other Circuit in the state. Miscellaneous

* Educating judges, juvenile probation officers and prosecutors about disability.

* Educating police officer on how to interact with children with disabilities

* Dealing with transient issues.

 

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Law Offices of the Public Defender
Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida

 

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