Suspensions, expulsions, truancy, and chronic absenteeism are linked to academic failure. They’re also a path to the juvenile, and possibly the criminal justice system for many school kids. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges in the juvenile justice system know far too well that these school discipline issues impact our courts.
In Dec 2013, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye co-hosted a statewide summit with Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. The Summit on Keeping Kids in School and Out of Court launched an effort that aims to engage courts and juvenile court judges in changing the poor outcomes for youth struggling with truancy, chronic absenteeism, and school discipline issues.
The summit was a success, gathering more than 30 county teams of judicial officers, educators, juvenile justice and child welfare professionals, and community leaders to examine school discipline policies, school climate, and other issues that have put California’s children and youth in danger of being pushed out of school and, too often, into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The peer-to-peer knowledge exchanged and the cross-agency collaborations strengthened or established at the local level is beginning to make a difference.
In Spring 2014, news of court-community collaborations came from the state’s largest school districts (see: “Los Angeles moves haltingly toward ending fines for truancy Juvenile judge tries to alter failed policy with 'rationality'). A few months later, news of efforts in smaller counties also made headlines (see: “Truancy court convenes in Solano County”—Daily Republic).A video produced by the California Endowment responds to the question, "Why Are California Schools Suspending More Students Than They Graduate?
The Keeping Kids in School and Out of Court Initiative is funded by private foundations and government grants. The effort is supported by California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruction , and other state and local leadership.