I have attended a number of national juvenile justice conferences, listening sessions, panel discussions and meetings for well over a decade. As an educator, I often feel like a foreigner in a strange land. I have consistently heard the genuine concerns and efforts of committed juvenile justice professionals to reduce incarceration and recidivism of our nation’s youth. At every gathering, there is mention of the need to have education at the table. However, more often than not, there are few conference sessions on education, sparse attendance by educators, a lack of joint planning and few examples of successful local juvenile justice/education partnerships. Why is this happening?
Fifteen years ago, as a special education director in King County, Washington, I began to notice more and more of our special education students becoming involved in juvenile justice as well as a larger percentage of dropouts. A local study found that 70 percent of youth in detention or on probation had dropped out of school or had so few credits that graduation was unattainable. The direct link between education and juvenile justice became very clear, as did the realization that business between juvenile justice and education could no longer continue as usual. . . .