In this section we will answer the most commonly asked questions regarding the project topics. Please use the question list below to navigate the most common questions asked and supporting answers for those topics.
The zero-tolerance approach to school discipline states that predetermined punishments be applied when students violate school rules, regardless of mitigating circumstances. These punishments often include suspension, expulsion, and arrest. Proponents of these policies argue that severely punishing disruptive students will create a safer, more favorable learning environment by discouraging other students from similar misbehaviors. However, opponents state that the implementation of these zero-tolerance policies in public schools is responsible for the steep increase in suspensions and arrests throughout the 1990s and 2000s. When students are removed from the classroom, they are often held back academically and may end up involved in the juvenile justice system.
Collateral consequences are the additional civil state penalties, mandated by law, that are part of juvenile adjudication. They are not part of the direct consequences of adjudication, such as incarceration, fines, or probation. They are the additional civil actions by the state that are triggered because of involvement with the justice system, and that can have important short and long-term consequences on the lives of adjudicated youth. These consequences include (but are not limited to) loss or restrictions to earn professional licenses, eviction from public housing, ineligibility for public funds including welfare benefits and student loans, ineligibility for jury duty, and deportation for immigrants. Often, juveniles are unaware of these collateral consequences when they accept plea deals with a district attorney or prosecutor.Expungement is a legal proceeding that can be used to clear a juvenile’s record. In a successful expungement proceeding, the juvenile’s record is sealed or destroyed, so it is as if any court proceedings never existed. In addition to the psychological relief expungement can provide, there is the amelioration of several collateral consequences of adjudication, such as the restoration of the eligibility for public benefits and the right to bear arms and participate in jury duty.
Evidence-based programs bring together the best available research, professional expertise, and input from youth and families to develop and implement practices that have demonstrated positive outcomes through thorough and continuous evaluation. For a program to be considered “evidence-based,” it must satisfactorily demonstrate that the outcomes can be attributed to the program itself. To this end, the program must be peer-reviewed by experts in the field and validated by a federal agency or respected research organization that can speak for the program’s effectiveness. OJJDP’s Model Programs Guide uses expert study reviewers, instruments, and ratings to process and present the latest information about evidence-based juvenile justice and youth prevention, intervention, and reentry programs. Please click here to view the OJJDP's Model Programs Guide.
An expulsion refers to the removal of a student from a school system for an extended period of time due to the student’s persistent violation of the institution's rules, or for a single offense of extraordinary severity in some cases. Expulsion norms and procedures vary from state to state and among districts, and the approval of a relevant local school board may be required before a student can be expelled, as opposed to just suspended. Students who have been expelled typically are forced to attend class at some other location, such as alternative schools, boarding schools, private schools, and/or online courses. However, in some states, other public school districts are not required to enroll students serving a term of expulsion, technically causing a permanent expulsion from the district and the potential end to the student’s educational career. Thus, a student who is expelled may be at higher risk for not completing high school and going on to college.
Truancy is any unexcused absence from school. Each school district applies attendance rules that determine: (1) the age at which a child is required to begin attending school, (2) the age at which a child may legally drop out of school, and (3) the number of unexcused absences which make a student legally truant. Truancy is a status offense, meaning that it is considered a crime due to the age of the offender. In many states, youth missing more than 10 days of school are required to repeat the entire school year. In addition, truancy cases are handled differently across states, as they could be addressed by: (1) referring youth to juvenile court, placing them at risk of delinquent adjudication, (2) utilizing the dependency system or other informal processing that provides the opportunity for family services, or (3) punishing the parent through fines and/or jail time.
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written document that is developed for each public school child who is eligible for special education. As required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a multidisciplinary team must determine that he or she (1) is a child with a disability and (2) requires special education and related services to benefit from the general education program. The IEP is a document (but not a contract) that is designed to meet each child’s unique educational need, and must include the following pieces of information: (1) present levels of educational performance, (2) goals, and (3) identification of special education and related services. Many IEPs also provide behavior management plans and in many states, students with IEPs may not be eligible for harsh disciplinary actions such as expulsion – especially if the behavior is considered to be a symptom of their disability.
Youth of color are more likely to be the recipients of school discipline, including school-based referrals to court, and are often overrepresented in the juvenile justice system. Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC), also known as “Racial and Ethnic Fairness” (REF), refers to the unequally high rates of minority youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 2002 broadened the scope of the DMC initiative from "disproportionate minority confinement" to "disproportionate minority contact," requiring states to examine racial and ethnic representation at nine decision points within the juvenile justice system and implement improvement efforts to reduce identified disproportionality.
Judicial leadership is essential in reducing school referrals to juvenile court, as juvenile and family courts hold a unique position among the many stakeholders that comprise an involved community. Judges have the expertise, credibility, and resources to reach out to all stakeholders, unify their efforts, and oversee the development and implementation of strategies aimed at preventing youth from reaching the court due to petty behavioral issues. Effort coordination among all stakeholders (including courts, schools, and community members) is crucial for the successful implementation of juvenile justice action plans, and judges are uniquely positioned to direct such coordination.