Our weekly review of juvenile justice news here and abroad.
SUSPENSION CITY: “More than 50,000 Chicago Public Schools students got out-of-school suspensions last year, according to a WBEZ analysis of state and district data. That’s about 13 percent of the district’s population,” Becky Vevea reported on Tuesday.
School suspensions have become a topic du jour in the Chicago media this year – not that that’s a bad thing.
The subject cuts across two major fronts in the city’s high-pitched education debate: racial disparities inside CPS and disparities between CPS and charter schools – some of which are notoriously hard-nosed in their disciplinary policies. The reporting also reveals the continuing chasm between what the school district says and what reporters continue to find.
For example, Catalyst’s Sarah Karp reported in February:
“CPS has spent the last week touting what officials say is a big decrease in suspensions, culminating with a school visit and press conference by Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday, where the mayor declared that curbing suspensions was just the ‘right thing to do.’
“But a confidential document obtained by Catalyst Chicago shows that suspension data from last year is more troubling than something to boast about. Last year, young elementary-age students were suspended far more than in previous years.
“Plus, the racial disparity in suspensions of black students compared to whites and Latinos – long a problem in CPS and something that current CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett says she cares personally about – has widened over the past few years.”
Also in February Tribune reported that “privately run charter schools expel students at a vastly higher rate than the rest of the district,” reinforcing the notion that charters dispatch students they don’t wish to contend with – many of whom wind up back in CPS classrooms.
With the addition of Vevea’s extensive report, it would seem the evidence is in. Now it’s time for a policy response.
BAD NEWS BUDGET: “Illinois must preserve funding for critical human services in the FY 2015 state budget,” Mike Drymiller, board president of The Center for Youth and Family Solutions, wrote to the Peoria JournalStar this week.
“Without a revenue solution, services to vulnerable children, families, and seniors are facing an inconceivable 25 percent cut.”
While fear-mongering about worst-case budget scenarios is commonplace in politics, there’s no reason to believe Illinois lawmakers will extend a particular effort to save social services from the kind of draconian cuts Drymiller goes on to outline. After all, past behavior is the best indicator of future performance.
“Our system is in crisis,” Drymiller writes, “and the safety net is at extreme risk. We need the Legislature to support the governor’s budget before the end of the fiscal year. Otherwise, further cuts will devastate our communities and the fiscal and human costs will be catastrophic.”
TROUBLE IN TENNESSEE: “Knox County Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin of Tennessee is admired for kind gestures like handing out stuffed animals to small children in court,” Susan Ferriss reported for the Center for Public Integrity on Sunday.
“However, U.S. justice officials are interested in allegations that truants put into detention in Knox did not benefit first from appointed legal counsel. Irwin has refused to allow local lawyers to set up a project at court to offer free representation to accused truants as they arrive with parents for hearings.”
* “Tennessee court procedures highlight national debate over minor offenders’ rights.
CALIFORNIA KIDS: “Carson is moving to become the first California city to criminalize bullying, paving the way for misdemeanor charges to be filed against children as young as 5 years old,” the Daily Breeze of Torrance reports in a story that has gotten wide play across the country.
“If the City Council puts its final stamp of approval on the plan May 20, the new law would take effect June 19. [Last week], all five council members voted tentatively to push through the change in the city’s Municipal Code.”
* The general tenor of the media coverage has been that Carson is going too far.
HOT READ: Advice For A Trouble Teen.
ASSESSING ARMENIA: “The systemic problem is that we don’t have a juvenile justice system that would correspond to the best international practice and international legislative acts, which our state has signed,” Anna Kurdova of the Russian-Armenian State University told Hetq on Wednesday.
“We don’t have a juvenile justice system that would arise from international instruments ratified by Armenia. Some aspects of the juvenile justice [system] that exist in Armenia today we inherited from Soviet legislation.
“Our minors are not fully protected as subjects of special protection. For example, punishment such as imprisonment should be applied to juvenile offenders only in exceptional cases, which means that more often alternative means of punishment and constraint should be applied.
“For example, courts avoid transferring a minor to the supervision of local self-government bodies for the simple reason that the legislation does not stipulate the procedure and format of the supervision, the way to determine the outcome, their impact on the future progress of the youth’s case, and so on.”
Click through for the full interview.
CYPRUS SEES IT: “Cyprus aims to modernize its juvenile justice system with emphasis placed on preventing and reducing youth offending, Minister of Justice Ionas Nicolaou has said,” In Cyprus reported Thursday.
“Speaking before a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development in Nicosia, Nicolaou said authorities are already putting into practice innovative measures that will eventually become part of legislative framework.
“These measures place emphasis on resolving social disputes by avoiding the criminal judicial process.”
Seems like a trend, no?