Monday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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Juvenile Drug Court Re-instituted in W. Ky.,

Officials in western Kentucky are working together to restart a juvenile drug court.

Daviess County Attorney Claud Porter told the Messenger-Inquirer that the city of Owensboro and the county have each agreed to put up $88,000 annually to fund the program, which was discontinued by the state due to budget cuts.

Officials say the goal of the program is to intervene with children before they develop serious substance abuse issues.

Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly Jr. says local officials will fund the drug court for three years, but hope that the state Administrative Office of the Courts will be able to take over funding after that.

Panel Agrees on Juvenile Reform Recommendations, The Augusta Chronicle

The way children and teens who break the law are handled in Georgia could change under recommendations a special council agreed to last week.

The Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, a 21-member panel that radically overhauled adult sentencing in the last legislative session, is proposing equally dramatic changes in juvenile justice for lawmakers to consider when they convene in January.

The main difference is that troublemaking minors will be sentenced based not on what they did, but on the chances they could break the law again.

It’s an approach Ohio pioneered and that Texas instituted five years ago.

D.C.’s Truancy Crisis? Try Business as Usual, The Washington Post

Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said this month that there is a “truancy crisis” in D.C. Public Schools, as if the problem were new and suddenly needs to be dealt with. Unfortunately, this crisis has been with us for many years, dating back to the Anthony Williams administration. At Superior Court, we have seen the tragic results of truant behavior — crime, delinquency, substance abuse and recidivism — for just as long. No, there is nothing new about this problem. If there is a true desire to conquer it, let’s not act as though it just appeared.

Several years ago, while Adrian Fenty was mayor and after I became chief judge of D.C. Superior Court, I met with Henderson’s predecessor, Michelle Rhee, and others to offer to restart a truancy diversion program involving judges, community groups, principals, school attendance counselors and mental health professionals.

Small Town Could Offer Anti-Truancy Model for Chicago, Chicago Tribune

While the Chicago Public Schools lack a sustained and focused effort to combat elementary-level truancy, school districts across the state are finding ways to fight the problem and having success, one child at a time.

Despite budget cuts and a sagging economy, cash-strapped school districts use truancy officers, court interventions and civic outreach campaigns to bring truant kids back to school, and educators say the same methods could work in Chicago.

Local authorities go to these lengths because absences from school in the earliest grades can have a devastating effect on children, their families and the community, as well as draining millions of dollars from school districts whose state and federal funding is linked to attendance rates.

In Galesburg, near the Iowa border, some transplanted Chicago residents are surprised to see school officials hold them accountable for their children’s absenteeism. Truancy officers make home visits to bring in missing kids and, in the toughest cases, hold hearings and issue fines.

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