- At least 16 California counties have come to rely on transition specialists in the “court schools” students attend while they are in juvenile detention.
- EdSource reports the specialists help place students in appropriate classes after they leave detention, as well as facilitate their transition to an educational placement — whether that is a traditional high school or alternative program.
- Since 2014, when mandatory minimum sentences were scaled back in California, young people who end up in juvenile court schools stay for shorter periods, requiring transition specialists to work faster to get their charges on track.
Juvenile detention centers across the country have been criticized for their low-quality academic offerings. Students who end up in these centers are losing critical instruction time in their home schools and, when their only alternative is less rigorous, they end up returning to school behind. This often creates a level of academic frustration that leads to behavior problems that are more likely to get the student kicked out of class again, creating a vicious cycle.
To break the “school-to-prison pipeline,” many schools are exploring new disciplinary strategies, including restorative justice. This policy prioritizes keeping students in school rather than sending them away, and it requires students to reflect on their behavior and its consequences. In Mississippi, one judge forced local superintendents to revise their criteria for sending students to youth court, telling them to handle behavior issues and dress code violations in-house.