OJD Spotlight: A Discussion on School-Justice Partnerships with LaToya Powell

As we observe and prepare for the full implementation of North Carolina’s plan to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction, there are some elements of the new legislation that are worth highlighting, one of those being the mandate for school-justice partnerships.  The Office of the Juvenile Defender had the pleasure of sitting down with LaToya Powell to discuss the roll-out of the school-justice partnership project.

Office of the Juvenile Defender: Thank you for taking the time to be here with us today, LaToya.  Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in juvenile justice.

LaToya Powell: I have been working in the area of juvenile justice since I graduated law school in 2005.  First, as a prosecutor in Johnston County, then as an appellate attorney with the Attorney General’s Office where I handled juvenile delinquency appeals for the State.  After that, I worked as a law professor at the UNC School of Government, where I trained and advised North Carolina public officials, including juvenile court judges, prosecutors, juvenile defenders, and lawmakers.  Currently, I am with the Office of General Counsel at the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) where I work as the Assistant Legal Counsel responsible for addressing juvenile delinquency issues and policy changes like Raise the Age.

LaToya Powell headshotOJD:  What are school-justice partnerships?

LP:  A school-justice partnership is exactly what it says.  It’s a partnership between the schools and the courts and other community stakeholders, like law enforcement and juvenile justice, designed to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline.  The school-to-prison pipeline is what happens when schools rely heavily on exclusionary discipline, like suspensions, expulsions, and referring kids to court, to address minor misconduct in school.  We know from Juvenile Justice data that close to 50 percent of petitions are based on misconduct that happens at schools.  Ninety-four percent of those cases are minor misdemeanors, like simple assault, misdemeanor larceny, and disorderly conduct, such as a kid being disruptive in class or yelling at a teacher.  What we know from evidence is that when kids are referred to court, they are more likely to drop out of school, they are more likely to engage in future misconduct and they are more likely to be charged as an adult.  So not only does it produce negative outcomes for the students, but it also makes schools and communities less safe because it increases recidivism.

Rather than push kids out of school, school-justice partnerships keep kids in school where they have better outcomes.  And as a result of Raise the Age, we now have a directive from the Legislature to the Director of the AOC to create policies and procedures to expand school-justice partnerships throughout North Carolina.

OJD:  What results are you hoping to see from the expansion of school-justice partnerships?

LP:  What we would hope to see is a reduction in the number of school-based referrals that go to the court system, and as a result of that, better outcomes for students—greater academic achievement, lower dropout rates, increased graduation rates, safer schools—those are the main goals for this partnership.  Another thing that we hope to see is less disproportionality in the way that school discipline is administered because the school-to-prison pipeline has a disparate impact on certain groups of students, primarily students of color and disabled students.

OJD:  What questions or problems do you anticipate for these programs?

LP:  The biggest problem or obstacle that we anticipate is the lack of resources for schools that need to be able to address disruptive students without the need to suspend them or send them to court.  There are many counties in our state that have lots of programs, community-based and school-based, that support students who are misbehaving at school, but other counties are not so fortunate.  They don’t have as many resources or tools to help their teachers who have a classroom of 30 or more kids.  Often times, all they have is a school resource officer who they can ask “Can you help me with this kid who is disturbing my classroom?” So, we hope to see more funding to create additional programs that will serve this population of students.

We know that some of our counties have things like restorative justice programs, Teen Court programs, and other diversion programs that are very successful and produce really great results for children.  The Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee (JJAC), which is monitoring the implementation of Raise the Age, has requested additional resources from the Legislature to fund diversion programs for these school-justice partnerships.  Also, the AOC is creating a school-justice partnership toolkit that provides guidance on how to create and implement a school-justice partnership.

OJD:  How many counties in N.C. are currently implementing school-justice partnership programs and have there been any measurable levels of success?

LP:  To my knowledge there are at least six counties that currently have school-justice partnerships and several others are in the process of creating them.  New Hanover County established its school-justice partnership about two years ago under the leadership of Chief District Court Judge J. Corpening and under its model, schools use graduated responses to address minor misconduct.  A graduated response model is a tiered system of sanctions that essentially gives the child a second chance to get it right.  So, instead of a student immediately being arrested and charged the first time he or she gets into a fight, the school will first try to address the misconduct without resorting to exclusionary discipline.  For example, a teacher might reprimand the student or require the student to do an assignment that relates to the behavior.  And then the next time the student misbehaves, the school might refer the student to a program or a behavioral specialist at the school.  Under the graduated response model, a child would have to receive at least two graduated responses before a referral to court can be made.  As a result of this school-justice partnership, New Hanover County has reduced school-based referrals by 47 percent.

OJD:  What other solutions would you propose to derail the school-to-prison pipeline?

LP:  I think this project is going to help lots of children in North Carolina avoid contact with the juvenile justice system.  And that is really important, not just for our kids but also for our schools and our communities.  By reducing the population of students who are being referred to court for minor misconduct that happens at school, it will increase the capacity of the juvenile court system to serve the older population of juveniles, 16- and 17-year-olds, who will soon become a part of that system.  The successful implementation of Raise the Age is an important step in reducing the school to prison pipeline.

OJD:  How can people learn more about school-justice partnerships in North Carolina?

LP:  For more information about School Justice Partnership North Carolina, please visit SJP.nccourts.gov.

OJD Week in Review: Mar. 19-23

This week we only have reminders for training and job opportunities again, with only a few other job opportunities that will be closing soon and some news from around the community you may have missed peppered in.  Fresh updates are limited right now, but we expect some more news very soon.

Job/Fellowship Opportunities

The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) is currently hiring a strategic communications manager.  The individual in this position will be responsible for crafting organizational messaging, overseeing editorial excellence, and working with leadership to implement a communications strategy that is creative, forward-thinking, and reflective of NJDC’s vision.  This position will remain opened until filled.  To find further info about the position and how to apply, please go here.

East Bay Community Law Center  will continue accepting applications for a Director of its Youth Defender Clinic (YDC) until Monday, March 26.  YDC provides legal representation and advocacy to young people in school discipline and delinquency proceedings, including assisting young people in overcoming barriers to education and employment created by juvenile court records and court-ordered debt.  The Director will lead YDC’s work, which consists of representing clients in juvenile delinquency and school discipline proceedings, supervising and training law students on cases, and engaging in policy advocacy related to court-debt and juvenile probation.  For more information and to apply please check here.

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The Defender Association of Philadelphia has an opening for Chief of its Juvenile Unit (details for position available here).  Applications for this position will be closing on Monday, Mar. 26, as well.  Cover letters and resumes should be submitted to Sherri Darden here.

The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) is seeking a mid-level policy attorney to handle youth justice issues in Santa Clara County.  Applications will be accepted through Apr. 15.  For further details and to apply please check here.

The UNC School of Government is seeking a tenure-track full-time permanent assistant professor of juvenile justice and criminal law.  The selected candidate for this position will be expected “to write for, advise, plan courses for, and teach” public officials, including judges, magistrates, law enforcement, prosecutors and defenders.  Applications will remain open until the position is filled.  The expected starting date for the new hire will be July 1.  Please find the full details for the position and how to apply here.

The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) is still accepting applications for its 2018-19 Youth Justice Leadership Institute.  This is an annual year-long fellowship program that selects 10 people of color working as professionals in the juvenile justice field to participate in a curriculum to develop their leadership and advocacy skills.  The fellowship can be completed with the fellows’ current employment, so those selected will not have to leave their jobs to participate in the Institute.  The fellowship will include two fully financed retreats, mentoring and frequent distance learning opportunities.  NJJN will host an informational webinar on Apr. 2 that you can register for here.  Applications for the Institute (found here) must be submitted by Apr. 23.

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Training

Disability Rights North Carolina will be hosting its 2018 Disability Advocacy Conference on Apr. 19.  The conference offers five CLE credits for lawyers, including one credit hour for substance abuse/mental health awareness.  Sessions include parental rights, restrictive interventions in public schools, guardianship reforms, and a session exclusively tailored to attorneys titled “Recognizing and Responding to a Lawyer with a Mental Health Disorder”, just to name a few.  To learn more about this event and register please visit their web page here.

From Around the Community

Also, in case you missed it, the N.C. Bar Association Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section held its council meeting and mixer at Whiskey Kitchen last night.  Check out their Twitter to see more photos and catch up on other news from the organization.

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Also, if you get a chance, please take time to read Rep. Jon Hardister’s article discussing Raise the Age from the Greensboro News & Record.  In his writing, Hardister acknowledges behavioral differences of juveniles, briefly praises Deputy Secretary of Juvenile Justice William Lassiter and references the recent Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee Report.

That does it for now.  Be sure to check out our Facebook and Twitter feed for updates during the week as well.  If you are a juvenile defense attorney in North Carolina, please contact us with your name and email to be added to our listserv and feel free to engage in with others in the juvenile defense community through our channels as well.  We will have more info and features for you coming soon.

OJD Week in Review: Mar. 5-9

This week we’ve got a new update regarding Raise the Age, a valuable resource for defenders and, as usual, we’ve got some new training opportunities and job opportunities for you as well.

New JJAC Report

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The Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee (JJAC) released its first report on Mar. 1, which can now be found on our “Raise the Age” page under the “Information for Defenders” tab.  We’ve added a new section to the “Raise the Age” page dedicated to providing updates from JJAC to allow everyone to follow the Committee’s progress.  This report details the key implementation dates for initiatives proposed in the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, the Committee’s requests for a unified video conferencing system, recommendations for transfer and housing of juveniles, requests from JJAC, OJD, and the Administrative Office of the Courts for additional funding, staff and other resources, dates for community and stakeholder forums, and other recommendations and plans of JJAC and its subcommittees.  A summary of the JJAC meeting prior to the report can be found here on our site.

Job/Fellowship Opportunities

The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) is currently hiring a strategic communications manager.  The individual in this position will be responsible for crafting organizational messaging, overseeing editorial excellence, and working with leadership to implement a communications strategy that is creative, forward-thinking, and reflective of NJDC’s vision.  This position will remain opened until filled.  To find further info about the position and how to apply, please go here.

The UNC School of Government is seeking a tenure-track full-time permanent assistant professor of juvenile justice and criminal law.  The selected candidate for this position will be expected “to write for, advise, plan courses for, and teach” public officials, including judges, magistrates, law enforcement, prosecutors and defenders.  Applications will remain open until the position is filled.  The expected starting date for the new hire will be July 1.  Please find the full details for the position and how to apply here.

The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) is now accepting applications for its 2018-19 Youth Justice Leadership Institute.  This is an annual year-long fellowship program that selects 10 people of color working as professionals in the juvenile justice field to participate in a curriculum to develop their leadership and advocacy skills.  The fellowship can be completed with the fellows’ current employment, so those selected will not have to leave their jobs to participate in the Institute.  The fellowship will include two fully financed retreats, mentoring and frequent distance learning opportunities.  NJJN has already hosted one informational webinar on Mar. 8 and will host the next on Apr. 2.  To register for one of this webinar, please visit here.  Applications for the Institute (found here) must be submitted by Apr. 23.

 

Training

JD Leadship Summit 2018Save the Date!  NJDC will be hosting the 2018 Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota on Oct. 26-28.  We will be sure to provide further details for this event as they arrive.

Disability Rights North Carolina will be hosting its 2018 Disability Advocacy Conference on Apr. 19.  The conference offers five CLE credits for lawyers, including one credit hour for substance abuse/mental health awareness.  Sessions include parental rights, restrictive interventions in public schools, guardianship reforms, and a session exclusively tailored to attorneys titled “Recognizing and Responding to a Lawyer with a Mental Health Disorder”, just to name a few.  To learn more about this event and register please visit their web page here.

On March 12, 2018, from 4 to 5 p.m. ET, the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators‘ Positive Youth Outcomes Committee will host “Classroom Excellence in Secure Residential Facilities.” This webinar will highlight work to improve the quality of education provided to at-risk, low-income, minority teenagers and young adults who are attending schools in alternative settings, including youth correctional facilities.  You can register for the webinar here.

New Resources

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has released the Juvenile Residential Facility Census Databook, the latest addition to the Data Analysis Tools section of its Statistical Briefing Book. National and state data from 2000 to 2014 describing the characteristics of residential placement facilities that hold juvenile offenders are now available for analysis. This includes operation, classification, size, and crowding.

Events Around the Community

The North Carolina Bar Association Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section will be holding a council meeting on March 22, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.  A networking reception will be held directly after the meeting at Whiskey Kitchen on 201 W. Martin St. and appetizers and a cash bar will be provided.  All section members and attorneys who could be members are welcome to attend and may RSVP here.

And that sums it up for this week.  We will have some more updates to our social media channels and more news you can use in the coming weeks, so please check back with us often.  Invitations are still open for guest bloggers and podcast guests as well, so feel free to reach out.  Until next week, we wish you well!

OJD Week in Review: Dec. 4-8

This week is we’ve just got lots of upcoming training announcements and… an update on Raise the Age!

Training, Training, and More Training

TRAINING--DEVELOPMENTOn Dec. 14, juvenile defenders have the opportunity to fill their afternoon with two sessions of training, one online and one in-person.  The Office of the Juvenile Defender and North Carolina Advocates for Justice will be hosting a free juvenile defense CLE in Courtroom 1 of the Wayne County Courthouse on 224 E. Walnut St. in Goldsboro, N.C.  The training, titled “Juvenile Defense – Effective Representation Now and For the Future”, will be held from 1-4 p.m. and a networking lunch will be provided from 12-1.  Three CLE credit hours will be earned by participants.  Please RSVP with Valerie Pearce by email or call 919-667-3369.  And starting at 4 p.m. EST, the National Juvenile Justice Network will be hosting a one-hour webinar titled “Police-Youth Engagement: Working on the Front Lines”, to discuss improving relationships between youth, police, and the community.  You can register for the webinar here.

The Southern Juvenile Defender Center has recently announced that it will be holding the 2018 SJDC Regional Summit on June 8-9 in Columbia, S.C.  The University of South Carolina School of Law will be hosting the event.  Registration and agenda details will be coming soon.

Registration is now open for the Judicial Institute on Domestic Child Sex Trafficking.  Hosted by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in collaboration with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and Rights4Girls, this interactive training will include hypothetical scenarios, case scenarios, lectures, small group discussions, and practical courtroom exercises focused on the issue of child sex trafficking in the U.S.  This free training will be held in Asheville on Feb. 12-14.  Judges and judicial officers are encouraged to register here.

On the Way to Raise the Age

JJAC

The first meeting of the Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee was held Monday, December 4, 2017.  The Committee, formed under the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (“Raise the Age”), is tasked to develop a specific plan for the implementation of raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction, including costs and other policy recommendations.  Co-chaired by retired Wilkes County Chief Court Counselor Bill D. Davis and District 22B District Attorney Garry Frank, the Committee heard several presentations, including the work of the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice that led to the most recent legislation, the rationale and data behind the policy considerations to raise the age, and further legislative, planning and policy considerations for implementation.  An interim report is due to the General Assembly March 1, 2018, and the next meetings will be held January 11, 2018 and February 5, 2018.  More information about the Committee may be found here.

That is all we have for you today.  On the note of N.C.’s plan to raise the age, we would like to encourage all juvenile justice advocates to reach out and share your opinions, whether you’ve got a piece you want to share on our blog or an idea or shout-out on Twitter or Facebook, please reach out!  And on a side note, in case you missed it, we posted a new podcast discussing Capital Area Teen Court on SoundCloud the week of Thanksgiving, so check it out.  Be sure to check back with us next week for more news and updates.