Wednesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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In Rural Georgia, One County Emerges as a Leader in Keeping Juveniles Out of the Courtroom, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

This small community to the east of Atlanta isn’t necessarily the kind of locale one would associate with progressive juvenile justice policies. Yet here, deep in the rustic Georgian countryside, the local juvenile court has embraced an innovative model where keeping kids out of trouble, the courtroom and especially detention has become an utmost priority.

Among the first of many detention alternative programs in Newton County was its specialized juvenile drug court, which officials say was the very first of its kind outside any urban area in the nation. Established in 1998, the court is still in operation nearly 15 years later.

And in the county of approximately 100,000, it’s not the only so-called community-based juvenile diversion program, either. A restorative justice program, a truancy intervention program, a program designed specifically for female offenders and programs for both pre-adjudicated and post-adjudicated offenders are all up and running in the jurisdiction.

Last year, 756 young people were referred to the Newton County Juvenile Court. Of those, 58 percent had their cases either dismissed or diverted.

According to Roberts, the purpose of the programs is simple: To keep youth out of juvenile courtrooms altogether.

Special Education Office Moves Toward Measuring Student Outcomes, Education Week

Thirty-nine states have garnered a “meets requirements” rating from the U.S. Department of Education’s office of special education programs on the quality of their programs for students with disabilities.  The federal special education office is moving to a system that will require states to demonstrate how they are working to improve the educational outcomes for students with disabilities.

“We’ve been looking at the data that shows that even though we have been improving in terms of compliance, because that’s what we’ve been focusing on, we were not seeing that same type of improvement across reading, and math, and graduation rates, and post-school outcomes for students with disabilities,” Musgrove told the audience at the IDEA Leadership Conference on July 29. “We need to focus our energies on the areas that are most in need of improvement.”

Mississippi and South Carolina both earned a “meets requirements” rating for the state performance plan, which is the top category. (The other ratings, in order of severity, are “needs assistance,” “needs intervention,” and “needs substantial intervention.”)

However, those states were recently singled out in a report from the National Center for Learning Disabilities on their gaps in graduation rates and dropout rates between students with disabilities and the general student population. Using state-reported data, the NCLD report found that South Carolina had a dropout rate for students with learning disabilities of 49 percent. In Mississippi, 75 percent of all students earned a diploma in 2010-11, compared to 23 percent of students with disabilities.

Eleven states—Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia—fell into the needs assistance category this year. The District of Columbia was in the needs intervention category, for the seventh year in a row.


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