- Report Published -
|Study of Student Transfers Between Public Education and Detention Centers and Juvenile Correctional Centers|
|Department of Education; Virginia Department of Correctional Education|
|HJR 527 (Regular Session, 1995)|
|The Honorable Robert Tata, Member, Virginia House of Delegates (Virginia Beach) introduced House Joint Resolution No. 527 in the 1995 Virginia General Assembly, calling for an examination of the student transfers between the public education system and detention homes and juvenile correctional centers.|
Purpose and Scope of the Study
The goal of this study was to investigate the educational systems in detention homes, juvenile correctional centers, and regional alternative education programs and school division programs as they relate to juveniles who are or have been incarcerated. The study sought to identify barriers to successful transfer of students and to identify administrative and innovative approaches to improve student transfers and their ability to become responsible and educated adults.
To complete this study an analysis of statutory and regulatory requirements for public education: (re)enrollment in public schools, compulsory education requirements, diploma requirements, records management and retention, and GED testing. Similar analysis of the education systems in detention homes and Department of Correctional Education schools were conducted. The structure of Virginia's juvenile justice system was reviewed and the impact on the education provided adolescents detained in detention homes or committed to juvenile correctional centers. The study included a review of previous Department of Education studies of Virginia's alternative education programs, focusing on information related to enrollment of juveniles who have exited detention homes or juvenile correctional facilities.
Analysis of the education offered in school divisions, regional alternative education programs, detention homes and Department of Correctional education programs, in comparison with state educational requirements, reveals four barriers to successful transfer of students between systems.
I. Credit for Academic Instruction:
Local school divisions do not universally provide academic credit toward a diploma for juveniles who have been incarcerated and educated in DCE or detention home programs and are re-enrolling in public schools.
II. Exchange of Information:
The current process by which information regarding students' academic performance and potential is exchanged between public schools, detention homes and juvenile correctional centers limits planning for the students' graduation from public education and entrance into the work force.
III. Educator Attitudes:
Some educators, as well as some probation and parole officers, do not believe that the students in detention homes and juvenile correctional centers can learn and can acquire the attitude and discipline necessary for educational achievement.
IV. Staffing Patterns:
Staffing patterns at the Department of Correctional Education, for parole officers, and in detention homes, limit the ability of staff to provide the degree of services youths require, and to maintain contact with educators and service providers in other systems.
The following recommendations are designed to improve the success of students' transfer of youth between public schools, detention homes, and juvenile correctional centers.
• School Re-enrollment Plan:
The Departments of Education, Correctional Education and Youth and Family Services should participate in the development of a school re-enrollment plan for each juvenile who is committed. Due to the critical nature of this plan, it is recommended that legislation be drafted to require parole officers to take lead responsibility for developing the plan, with required participation by DCE, local school division staff and the juvenile correctional center counselor.
Planning should begin when the juvenile is placed at DYFS's Reception and Diagnostic Center. Initial planning should identify the youth's educational status in the local school division, progress toward high school graduation, education plans, and post-schooling plans. The initial plan should address the nature of the DCE program the youth will be enrolled in, whether there is a need to take one or more of the literacy tests, and the youth's special education needs, if applicable.
As the juvenile's period of incarceration draws to conclusion, the probation/parole officer would work closely with DCE teachers and transition specialists and the local school division to ensure the juvenile's successful re-enrollment in public schools. Educators from both systems should share and review information regarding the student's educational performance to determine optimum placement. This reenrollment plan must reflect the authority of the local school board and superintendent to place students in their division and that school board's authority to deny re-enrollment for students who have been expelled from their division or any other public or private school.
• Regulations for Re-enrollment
The Boards of Education and of Correctional Education should comply with the requirements of § 22.1-17.1 of the Code of Virginia, and promulgate regulations for the re-enrollment in public schools of children who have been in the custody of the Department of Youth and Family Services. These regulations should address consistency in the curricula, standards and policies between the education programs of public education and of correctional education. In addition, the regulations should address the parameters of the re-enrollment plan.
• Maintaining Juveniles on School Division Rolls
School divisions should keep juveniles who are committed on their rolls following detainment in detention homes or commitment to juvenile correctional centers.
* Juveniles who are detained: School divisions should keep juveniles who are detained in detention homes on their rosters. Divisions would receive average daily membership (ADM) funds for the first 15 school calendar days of the juvenile's stay, for juveniles detained during the school year. The local school division would be responsible for providing detention home teachers with information regarding the student's academic program, provide classroom assignments and textbooks. The textbooks would be returned to the division when the juvenile returns to public school.
* Juveniles committed to juvenile correctional centers: School divisions should keep juveniles who are committed in juvenile correctional centers on their rosters. Divisions would keep the juvenile on their roster and receive average daily membership funds for the first 15 school days of commitment to allow for staff time required to develop a re-enrollment plan.
The local school division would be responsible for providing Department of Correctional Education teachers with information regarding the student's academic program, provide classroom assignments and textbooks, and participate in the development and implementation of the re-enrollment plan. The textbooks would be returned to the division when the juvenile returns to public school.
• Memorandum of Understanding
The Departments of Education and Correctional Education should complete a Memorandum of Understanding to include the following:
* Department of Education's technical assistance to DCE to assist in aligning its courses with requirements of the Standards of Accreditation.
* Process for detention home teachers to promptly forward academic information and learning styles inventory to DCE when a student is committed to a juvenile correctional center.
* DOE administration of the Literacy Testing Program in DCE facilities. This includes assumption of all direct costs associated with test administration and training of DCE staff.
* DOE inclusion of DCE teachers in staff development opportunities for public school teachers and administrators at a cost comparable to that offered to public school employees.
• Department of Correctional Education's Review of Education Programs
The new Superintendent of the Department of Correctional Education has reviewed current practices and implemented many changes. The Department of Correctional Education should continue its ongoing review of its education programs to enhance juveniles' abilities to re-enroll in public schools upon completion of their period of commitment. The Department of Correctional Education should continue its review of student transcripts, curriculum and textbooks. Distance learning efforts should continue, and use of correspondence schools explored. DCE should consider utilizing more information from the educators at detention centers and local school divisions during the evaluation process at the Reception and Diagnostic Center (RDC).
The Superintendent of the Department of Correctional Education should consider the benefits of establishing an academic advisory committee for its academic programs in youth schools. Membership should include public school educators and administrators to ensure that programs are comparable to those offered in local school divisions.
• Exchange of Information
Local school divisions and detention homes should ensure that they forward academic records and information to RDC staff in the timeframe required by law (within 5 days of being informed of the students' transfer to a DYFS facility).
The Departments of Youth and Family Services and Education should facilitate student transfers through communication with parole officers and school divisions.
The Department of Education should facilitate the identification of school division contacts for detention homes, Department of Correctional Education and parole officers. DOE should request school divisions to identify an attendance officer and a court-school contact in the next annual school report.
• Expansion of Regional Alternative Education Programs
The Commonwealth should expand the number of regional alternative education programs to ensure that all school divisions have an alternative education program available to them.
• Special Education
The Department of Education will work with the Department of Correctional Education to complete a review of the special education programs at DCE facilities. The purpose of this review would be to (a) identify reasons for the lack of consistency between DCE, detention home and local school division special education processes and programs and (b) identify potential approaches to attain greater consistency.
• Educator Attitudes
Increased communication between and among parole officers and educators in school divisions, detention homes, and Department of Correctional Education programs regarding students' educational progress and behaviors and attitudes to facilitate a more receptive attitude upon re-enrollment in the public school setting. Development of the re-enrollment plan, and the increased communication and planning that will occur with development of such a plan, will allow for such communication.
• Safety and' Security in the Department of Correctional Education Youth Schools
A sufficient number of security officers to address the security requirements in each DCE school should be hired by the Department of Youth and Family Services. The Department of Correctional Education should establish and enforce a Student Code of Conduct. Consequences for failure to comply with the Code of Conduct shall include suspension of a student from school programs. Students who are suspended will be placed either on work assignment detail or in confinement, depending upon the nature of the infraction. Days suspended, on work detail or in confinement, should not be counted toward the student's length of stay, but solely toward earning the privilege of returning to school. By suspending students who are incorrigible and do not wish to conform with the expected code of conduct, DCE teachers will be able to focus its education programs on those youth who demonstrate the greatest likelihood of and desire to make a positive change.
In addition to the efforts to enhance security, it is important that DCE be assured that it has a complete staff of teachers at each school in a juvenile correctional center. When teachers leave DCE schools to find employment in local school divisions, both the academic program and the security at DCE schools are compromised. DCE's efforts to enhance its efforts to recruit and retain teachers are supported.
• Parole Caseloads
Parole caseloads should be reduced to allow for multiple contacts during the week with youths and families, including evening and weekend visits. Parents and parole officers need to assist with enrollment problems and be available for the youths should school issues develop. DYFS has submitted a budget request for additional personnel which will allow for reduction in parole caseloads.