In response to zero tolerance practices and the subsequent stress placed on juvenile courts, juvenile and family court judges across the country are actively developing and testing collaborative approaches to reduce the school-to-juvenile justice pipeline. Since the implementation of zero-tolerance policies in schools, the rates of suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to the juvenile justice system have skyrocketed. Further, zero-tolerance policies – coupled with responses to truancy and other rule violations that encourage school disengagement – have the unintended consequence of leading to behaviors that increase the likelihood that students will misbehave again and ultimately become involved in the juvenile justice system.
These approaches often involve bringing pertinent stakeholders together to discuss the problem, identifying a solution (such as reducing the number of referrals to the juvenile court), and creating a protocol that can be used to achieve the identified goal.
In 2012, the NCJFCJ passed a resolution in support of courts and schools working together to ensure educational opportunities for all children and to reduce inappropriate referrals to court. Further, the NCJFCJ was awarded funding from several foundations and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) for a project to develop, test, and disseminate judicially-led protocols to reduce school pushout and inappropriate referrals to court. Listed below is more information related to the project.
In 2018, the NCJFCJ was funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to support selected sites to implement multidisciplinary initiatives. Specifically, the NCJFCJ has worked with leaders in the field to develop and disseminate resources, provide technical assistance and training, and facilitate multiple opportunities for collaboration among key stakeholders (e.g., juvenile court judges, educators and school administrators, local law enforcement and school resource officers, and mental health providers).
The NCJFCJ is evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of each intervention at the respective site, along with current data and evaluation capacity. In addition, the NCJFCJ is evaluating training and technical assistance provided to each site. Along with the site-level evaluation, all associated larger-scale events (e.g., All-Sites Meeting and School-Justice Partnership Institute) will be carefully assessed.
Since the inception of the School Pathways and School-Justice Partnership Project, the NCJFCJ successfully created the School-Justice Partnership National Resource Center, which is a one-stop-shop for jurisdictions seeking tools, training, latest news and events, and resources related to school-justice topics.
The NCJFCJ has authored and facilitated 14 topical newsletters; eight technical assistance bulletins; and 12 webinars in an effort to increase knowledge and awareness of school-justice topics to a national audience. The NCJFCJ has also provided onsite training and technical assistance to 30 local jurisdictions in 18 states on topics such as restorative justice practices, data collection, and analysis, early warning systems, developing and implementing a memorandum of understanding, trauma-informed practices, truancy, strategic planning, focus groups, community resource mapping, and judicial leadership.
The NCJFCJ envisions an increase in the number of evidence-based practices and the latest applications from the field that are alternatives to arrest and formal court processing; an increase in the number of local jurisdictions with active school-justice partnership collaborative teams; an increased understanding and awareness of the adverse effects of exclusionary discipline policies the promotion of the implementation of system change to reduce or eliminate the alarming number of school-based referrals to the juvenile justice system; and an improved school climate through the use of positive school discipline approaches and interventions to increase school engagement and connectedness.