Overhauling Education In The Council Juvenile Justice System

The schools designed to teach children incarcerated in the Los Angeles County juvenile justice system may be seriously underserving students, according to a new report by the Children’s Planning Council (CPC). As a result, Supervisor Don Knabe today called for a top-to-bottom reform of the education system in the County’s juvenile halls and probation camps, including the possible use of charter schools.

According to the CPC, recent student performance data show that most of the youth in the juvenile justice system have been – and continue to be – left behind despite ongoing research that shows that education is one of the areas most in need of improvement in the system.

Among the recent findings:

– In 2004, 74 percent of juvenile justice students did not pass the California High School Exit Examination.

– 20 percent of all Probation students require special education programs; double that of the general school special education population.

– School attendance records for Nidorf Juvenile Hall reveal that on one particular day in April 2007, 14% of students in the hall were not enrolled in the on-site school and only 78% of the enrolled students attended that day.

– Students in some high-risk units received little more than one hour of instruction on a particular day.

Knabe’s call for reform directs County agencies to develop a comprehensive plan to dramatically reform education programs in the County’s juvenile halls and probation camps, including an exploration of the feasibility of charter schools and other innovative models of education.

We have nearly 3,000 children enrolled in our probation schools and we have an obligation to provide each and everyone one of them with access to educational opportunities, said Knabe. If we want to keep these kids from returning to the juvenile justice system or from ending up in County jails later in life, then access to quality schooling must be a critical component of how we are serving children in our camps and halls.