In an effort to help young people transition from juvenile-justice back to their original schools or other educational settings, the U.S. Department of Education released various resources last week to help them, educators, and other navigate the process.
The new set of materials includes a guide for those leaving juvenile-justice facilities, a toolkit for administrators and other educators to assist youth in the juvenile-justice system, as well was:
- a guide to help students with special-education needs transitioning out of juvenile justice;
- information provided by the department’s office for civil rights citing data that those in juvenile detention receive fewer hours of instruction, less access to math and science courses than other students, and other obstacles to education;
- resources to help young people who have been confined in juvenile detention who are seeking federal student aid.
On any given day, 50,000 young people under the age of 21 are held in juvenile-justice systems, Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a call with reporters. Nearly half of young people in the system go back to being confined within three years of their release, and a quarter drop out of school within six months of being released, King said.
“We can help young people who have made mistakes in their past overcome their errors through education,” he said.
King also said the new resources are part of the Obama administration’s larger efforts, including My Brother’s Keeper, to address the school-to-prison pipeline. disparate impacts of school discipline programs, and mass incarceration. They’re based on recommendations from the Federal Interagency Reentry Council.
Former education secretary Arne Duncan, who was also on the call, said education was the key to breaking the cycle of social failure and poverty of which detention in juvenile justice is a part. (Duncan is currently working with at-risk young people in Chicago.)
“The path from juvenile detention to jail to prison is far too easy, far to common, far too much the norm for many communities across the nation,” Duncan said.
The Every Student Succeeds Act, the newest iteration of federal education law enacted roughly a year ago, also makes changes to how children are educated in the juvenile-justice system. One of the big ones is that the law places a priority on “timely re-enrollment” of students in secondary schools or other education programs, as well as a new emphasis on ensuring credits are transferred from juvenile justice along with the student to their new school or other program.
However, the law still concerns those who worry that many young people leaving the system could be pushed into inappropriate educational programs, and are concerned that there’s still not a lot of information required about how they perform academically in juvenile detention.