Wednesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Being Female in a System Designed for Boys, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

NEW YORK — On a recent Friday, 16-year-old Makala woke up and put on yellow skinny jeans and a trim black jacket — a stylish outfit that marked her temporary freedom.

[Listen to the audio interview here: Interview with Makala]

Until recently, most days Makala wore khakis and a green shirt to satisfy the dress code during a 10-month sentence at The Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. Good behavior had earned her a home pass to visit family a few weeks before her mid-April release.

Since her first arrest at age 12, Makala, whose last name is not used because she is a minor, has bounced through a number of placement and transition programs. As she recounted her time in the system she absent mindedly tore a reporter’s business card into tiny pieces. She described a menacing environment, rife with constant threats.

Sexual Abuse of Children with Disabilities, ChildLaw Blog,

According to the 2010 Administration on Children Youth and Families (ACYF) report, more than 3 million reports of child maltreatment were made in 2009. Of those cases, 10 percent involved sexual abuse, and 11 percent of sexual abuse victims reported having a disability.

The Vera Institute of Justice’s Center on Victimization and Safety recently partnered with the Ms. Foundation for Women to research factors contributing to the sexual abuse of children with disabilities and determine possible action steps for prevention.

In Illinois, A Season of Restorative Justice, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

It has been a good spring for juvenile justice in Illinois. In a year of great fiscal challenge, the General Assembly approved Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposal to double funding for Redeploy Illinois, a successful program helping teens get services in their communities instead of behind sent away to distant prisons.  Legislators also passed a bill to customize Redeploy programs for Cook County neighborhoods and bring the diversion program to the state’s largest county for the first time.

In addition, lawmakers approved a bill raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 17 for young people charged with felonies. That was a huge victory propelled by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission’s well-researched report (“Raise the Age; Don’t Split the Difference”) and accomplished by the Juvenile Justice Initiative’s effort to create the largest advocacy collaboration in the state’s juvenile justice history. Those legislative moves forward were buttressed by an Illinois Supreme Court rule change, which was championed by the Illinois State Bar Association, giving priority to appeals of delinquency proceedings.

Sunday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Michigan appeals court rules that juveniles serving mandatory life for murder won’t be freed, Detroit Free Press, Michigan

The Michigan appeals court has ruled a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that ends mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of murder will not apply retroactively to teens already found guilty who have exhausted their direct appeals. That means 358 Michigan prisoners serving mandatory life sentences without parole for murders committed when they were under 18 will remain behind bars. Michigan ranks second in the country in terms of juvenile lifers…

Elementary Schoolers’ Arrests In Florida Alarm Justice Officials , The Huffington Post, The Orlando Sentinel, Florida

The spate of arrests, which includes at least nine felony charges, has alarmed Orange County’s juvenile-justice community and prompted a judge to meet with the school’s principal.
It is “ridiculous” to criminalize students for behavior that is tied to their disabilities, said Olga Telleria-Khoudmi, juvenile-division chief for the Orange/Osceola Public Defender’s Office.

Preventing the Tragedy of LGBT Youth Homelessness, Juvenile Justice Blog

One of the largest populations of homeless youth is composed of LGBT teens who have come out to their families and are then disowned and forced to leave. While 1.7 million adolescents experience at least one episode of homelessness a year, between 20-to-40 percent of that population identify as LGBT.

GAO: Charter Schools Enroll Less Students with Special Needs

http://mommylife.net/archives/2012/09/obama_new_taxes.html

The Government Accountability Office released a new report, at the request of Congressman George Miller (D-CA), that found that charter schools around the country enroll less students with special needs than traditional public schools.

GAO researchers focused on three questions:

  1. How do enrollment levels of students with disabilities in charter schools and traditional public schools compare, and what is known about the factors that may contribute to any differences?
  2. How do charter schools reach out to students with disabilities and what special education services do charter schools provide?
  3. What role do education, state educational agencies, and other entities that oversee charter schools play in ensuring students with disabilities have access to charter schools?

Here’s what the GAO found:

Charter schools enrolled a lower percentage of students with disabilities than traditional public schools, but little is known about the factors contributing to these differences. In school year 2009-2010, which was the most recent data available at the time of our review, approximately 11 percent of students enrolled in traditional public schools were students with disabilities compared to about 8 percent of students enrolled in charter schools.

GAO also found that, relative to traditional public schools, the proportion of charter schools that enrolled high percentages of students with disabilities was lower overall. Specifically, students with disabilities represented 8 to 12 percent of all students at 23 percent of charter schools compared to 34 percent of traditional public schools. However, when compared to traditional public schools, a higher percentage of charter schools enrolled more than 20 percent of students with disabilities.

Several factors may help explain why enrollment levels of students with disabilities in charter schools and traditional public schools differ, but the information is anecdotal. For example, charter schools are schools of choice, so enrollment levels may differ because fewer parents of students with disabilities choose to enroll their children in charter schools. In addition, some charter schools may be discouraging students with disabilities from enrolling. Further, in certain instances, traditional public school districts play a role in the placement of students with disabilities in charter schools. In these instances, while charter schools participate in the placement process, they do not always make the final placement decisions for students with disabilities. Finally, charter schools’ resources may be constrained, making it difficult to meet the needs of students with more severe disabilities.

Most of the 13 charter schools GAO visited publicized and offered special education services, but faced challenges serving students with severe disabilities. Most charter school officials said they publicized the availability of special education services in several ways, including fliers and placing ads in the local newspaper. Many charter schools GAO visited also reported tailoring special education services to individuals’ needs, but faced challenges serving students with severe disabilities due to insufficient resources. About half of the charter school officials GAO interviewed cited insufficient resources, including limited space, as a challenge.

COPAA has additional coverage. And one blogger noted that the report’s release was “exquisitely timed” because it coincided with the national charter school conference in Minneapolis.

Unfortunately, the report doesn’t give any substantive coverage to why students with special needs may be underrepresented in charter schools. Without that evidence, little can be done to remedy the problem. A heated debate between pro-charter school and pro-special education advocates likely will do little to push the issue forward without hard proof of what is causing the disparity.