Blog: education

President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance use treatment, and teen mental health. 

FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated (The White House)
On Monday President Obama announced steps the Administration will take to create "meaningful criminal justice reform," including reforming the reentry process of formerly-incarcerated individuals. Among the measures announced was the "Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program Awards to Support Public Housing Residents," a program to make fresh starts possible for youth with expungeable convictions. In an effort to promote second chances for youth, the Obama Administration will no longer use the term "juvenile delinquent,' and will now exclusively use the term  "justice-involved youth."

Watch This Webinar: Improving Services for LGBT Youth

feet-349687_1920Reclaiming Futures is committed to the equitable treatment of troubled youth—nurturing each of them on a path toward health and prosperity, rather than incarceration. To do this, we must be able to identify and end the patterns of discrimination and victimization at play in our schools and our juvenile justice systems.

Why Schools Over-Discipline Children With Disabilities; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and teen mental health. 

Why Schools Over-Discipline Children With Disabilities (The Atlantic)
As the U.S. Department of Education celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the high rate at which special-needs students are disciplined raises questions about the current state of equal access to services like public education. Some researchers and advocates refer to this issue as "the discipline gap," and data from the Department of Education finds that the disparity increases when race is added.

Possible Implications for Public Schools: Addressing Complex Trauma

The Washington Post,  LA Times and Aces Too High posted stories regarding the lawsuit filed against the Compton School district for allegedly not responding to students’ learning and mental health needs specifically related to complex trauma. The statutory framework for this lawsuit is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and American Disabilities Act. The Washington Post article provides the actual lawsuit and all three articles offer synopses of the trauma experienced by youth named in the lawsuit.  The lawsuit describes and alleges that these young people experienced numerous traumas both on and off school propfile0001681273132erty such as homelessness, physical and sexual abuse, violence, witnessing shootings, unsafe school conditions, and familial behavioral health issues.  Three Compton School district teachers are named for the prosecution alleging that their requests to provide youth with the appropriate behavioral health services were ignored by the district.  For those of us that work in the juvenile justice or behavioral health fields these stories seem all too common. Decades of research and practice have shown that trauma has profound negative effects on an individual’s overall health (e.g., neurological, biological, psychological, social).  One of the more well-known studies, which is being used to support this lawsuit, is the Adverse Childhood Experiences ( ACEs) study. The major findings from the ACEs study show trauma can impair an individual’s social, emotional, and cognitive abilities and functioning.

But, what is complex trauma?

Expulsion Rates in Kern County, California Raise Concerns about “Throwaway Kids”

The Center for Public Integrity recently posted a story about throwaway kids--kids that have been expelled by their schools and placed in alternative forms of education--examining the complex balance between discipline and education.
The piece focuses on independent study students, many of whom are required to meet with teachers once a week for four and a half hours and are assigned work to complete, at home, until their next meeting. For many critics, independent study seems like taking a step back.
“You take a kid who has already demonstrated that he’s not being successful in conventional school, and then you impose on him the duty that he’s going to self-study, to me that just seems insane,” said Tim McKinley, an attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), a legal aid group.
Another concern is the rate at which minorities are expelled from Kern County, which is eerily similar to disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system. In the 2009-2010 school year, Kern’s Bakersfield High School expelled:

  • 29 percent of black students (15 percent of the high school’s population)
  • 43 percent of Latino students (29 percent of the high school’s population)

Education Portal Offers Fresh Start for Incarcerated Youth in Oregon

Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) offers incarcerated youth the opportunity to receive high school and college education while they serve time through Education Portal, a Mountain View, California based company.
Oregon is the first state in the nation to offer such services to teens involved with the juvenile justice system.
"When at-risk youth arrive at OYA, they are often years behind in high school, have learning disabilities, and have suffered from abuse and neglect,” states OYA Director Fariborz Pakseresht. “We are deeply grateful to Education Portal for this partnership that offers kids a chance to make up for lost time and educational opportunities." Education Portal offers free high school and college courses to everyone. Services include:

  • Over 4,000 lessons ranging from college business, history and science courses as well as high school AP biology, math and physics
  • 53 trained and experienced instructors
  • 33 College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams
  • Transferrable credits to almost 3,000 colleges and universities
  • Career help videos on resumes, interviewing and networking

Sarah Inman, Director of PR and Outreach explains that for incarcerated teens, “The three main barriers are a lack of basic college readiness skills, inability to afford college, and they don’t have access to college courses while incarcerated.”