Anti-Delinquency Program Found Effective by Researchers

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As a coalition of youth agencies called on the Congress this month to continue the federal programs that deal with juvenile delinquency, a group of academic researchers released a report that appeared to buttress the argument that many federally funded programs designed to combat juvenile delinquency have been successful.

According to the report of the Center for Social Organization of Schools at The Johns Hopkins University, the alternative-education program of the Justice Department has been effective in reducing violence, increasing attendance and academic achievement, and dealing with the "alienation" of many young people of school age.

Many efforts to combat juvenile delinquency in schools and communities have been criticized as being unrealistic, the report said. But it argued that programs based on sound theoretical principles and fully implemented often work.

To Combat Delinquency

Under the program the Justice Department has operated since 1980, it has funded projects developed by 69 schools in 17 predominantly low-income areas to combat juvenile delinquency. The schools strengthened their disciplinary procedures, increased psychological and career counseling, introduced programs designed to increase the involvement of parents in the schools, introduced new vocational-education courses and revised existing courses, and offered law-related courses.

The schools, which together received a total of $12 million in three-year grants, targeted 6,548 students in the 6th through the 12th grades for "direct" help, the study said. But a total of 23,934 students attending the schools were affected by the program.

About 32 percent of the youths were white, 36 percent were black, and 24 percent were Hispanic. The rest were American Indians, Asian-Americans, or members of other ethnic groups.

The report's conclusions were based on answers to questions given to students and staff members at the schools about the kind of behavior they engaged in or witnessed over the first two years of the program. Statistics for the program's third year have not been compiled.

Funding Will End This Fall

Gary D. Gottfredson, the researcher who directed the study, said funding for the programs--administered by the Justice Department's office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention--will end this fall. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act of 1974, which created the office, is scheduled to expire next September.

The coalition of officials from the Boys Clubs of America, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, the National Network of Runaway and Youth Services, and other organizations urged the Reagan Administration and the Congress to reauthorize the act.

In a report, the coalition expressed concern that the Administration would try to abolish the of-fice by "zero-funding," or eliminating federal budget support.

The activities in the office's alternative-education program were developed to address five "risk factors" for juvenile delinquency, the Johns Hopkins study said. Those risk factors are poor school attendance, failure in school, lack of belief in established rules, association with delinquent students, and a lack of attachment to the school and adults.

Results of the survey were not always conclusive because of the difficulties involved in gathering data, but there were many signs of success, the study said. Among the findings for the first two years of the programs:

Of the schools that took part in the program, more improved than regressed on each of the five risk factors.

Nearly six times as many schools improved as regressed in the survey's measurement of the "positive self-concept" of students.

In several measurements of "psychosocial development," more than twice as many schools showed improvement as showed a decline.

The morale and commitment of teachers improved in more schools than they regressed in.

Both teachers and students reported that they felt safer during the second year of the program than they did during the first year.

Teachers in 22 schools said they were "victimized" less frequently; teachers in five schools said they were victimized more often.

The number of schools with higher attendance was greater than the number of schools with lower attendance.

Notable Improvement

Perhaps the most notable improvement took place in the Charleston County Public Schools in South Carolina, the report said. For example, at St. John's High School in Charleston, the proportion of students whose answers on the re-searchers' questionnaire indicated that they engaged in delinquent behavior dropped from 12 percent to 10 percent in one year, according to the study.

Individual schools in the district experienced declines in more specific indicators of juvenile delinquency, the study said. The proportion of St. John's students involved with drugs dropped from 24 percent to 19 percent in one year. Three Charleston high schools experienced even more significant declines in the number of students who reported being suspended.

The success of the Charleston project, Mr. Gottfredson said, was due primarily to a clear statement by Continued on Page X

Delinquency Aid

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school officials of the goals and responsibilities of people in the schools. Each of the project's seven schools employed two staff members to run the program and the central administration employed three additional employees.

"I thought the [regulations and paperwork were] going to be perceived as burdensome in Charleston," Mr. Gottfredson said. "I thought we were going to get a little rebellion, but instead we got people saying, 'Gee, I'm glad I know what my job is."'

The Hopkins report argued that criticism of past efforts to reduce juvenile delinquency was misdirected. The report said that many juvenile programs were developed but never fully implemented. Many techniques that would reduce juvenile delinquency in schools have been "underutilized or ... misapplied in schools," the report said.

Some of the early juvenile-delinquency programs, Mr. Gottfredson added, amounted to little more than "putting up basketball courts" to keep students occupied.

Vol. 03, Issue 04

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