Thursday, August 10, 2017

Late to class? Go straight to jail.

Do not pass go.

Do not go to class.

Do not go home.

Mic's Jack Smith IV wrote a piece this week about a new report by the Vera Institute of Justice, We still put children in jail for being late to class.

Now you might remember that several weeks ago, we stood in solidarity with the Every Student, Every Day Coalition regarding under reported suspensions at some DC high schools. And this report is the other side of that coin.

Here is an excerpt from Smith's article.
Across the country, thousands of kids are still thrown in juvenile detention for violations known as “status offenses” — offenses that wouldn’t be considered crimes if not for the age of the offender. A new report by the Vera Institute of Justice shows that 100,100 kids were locked up this way in 2014 alone, the most recent year the data is available. They’re the kind of offenses that child psychologists will say are a natural part of growing up. But if you’re black, poor, LGBTQ or female, you often don’t get the benefit of the doubt: You get jail.
Too often we see youth in DC stumble into and sometimes from systemic and institutional barriers that keep them from being able to catch up with their peers, or even simply move forward at their own pace. To paraphrase what one colleague said at our Youth Advocacy for Action Summit in the Spring, "youth challenges are commonly adult issues". And as adults who value and do our best to raise up youth voice, part of our work often involves understanding youth development.

While the bulk of our work is rooted in policy research, community meetings, and legislative advocacy, part of it also has to do with informing and changing perspectives we have as adults of our young people. You may have heard the term adultism, which Wikipedia defines as "prejudice and accompanying systematic discrimination against young people".

One of the recommendations which the Vera report makes to decriminalize adolescent behavior certainly addresses adultism, in that it calls on adults that work in systems of care to "approach all misbehaviors with an understanding of youth development and needs":
Whether it is a teacher reacting to an outburst in the classroom, an officer responding to an incident in the home, or a case manager determining a service plan, adults cannot properly respond to kids’ misbehaviors—either in the moment or procedurally—if they do not appreciate the context in which behaviors occur. Adults who work with or make decisions for kids must be trained to understand youth development and needs, as well as how those factors shape behaviors. This includes knowledge of the effect and signs of mental health problems and trauma, as well as an understanding of how culture, systemic bias, intersecting identities (including gender and gender expression, race, and sexual orientation), and their own personal biases influence dynamics with kids. 
We recommend checking out both the Mic article for a brief overview, as well as the full report. And please share with your family, friends, and colleagues. Also, let us know what you think about the report in the comments!

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