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Tolerance in Schools for Latino Students: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline

Sunday, 13 April 2014 Posted in Campaigns

By Leah Robertson

On April 15, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute hosted a discussion on how policymakers, community advocates, and school administrators can work together to change existing policies and practices to ensure that schools lead all students down pathways toward success, not prisons.

Panelists Deputy Director of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy (CCLP) Dana Shoenberg, Campaign for Youth Justice Policy Director Carmen Daugherty, and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education al Fund (MALDEF) Regional Counsel James Ferg-Cadima spoke about the disparate and detrimental affects the school-to-prison pipeline has on today’s youth, emphasizing that there are better alternatives that legislators and voters can take action on.

Daugherty provided some background and an explanation of the school-to-prison pipeline and its disparate effects on Latino youth. In particular, she explained how the pipeline perpetuates itself cyclically. In addition, Shoenberg utilized this “cycle” metaphor to explain the mechanisms by which zero tolerance policies discriminate against youth of color and results in poorer student performance and disengagement. Zero tolerance policies have evolved from more objective categories of behavior, such as bringing weapons to school, to a much more subjective standard, i.e., disrespecting a teacher. These subjective standards disproportionately affect children of color and children with special needs. Zero tolerance policies punish rather than understand and address underlying causes of misbehavior and are seen more often in urban schools and schools that primarily serve youth of color, and contribute to what education specialists call the “achievement gap.”

Unfortunately, rather than attempt to remedy this cycle, Congress is currently considering adding more police officers to schools, which only exacerbates the issue. Police presence on school campuses have shown only to stimulate the pipeline without leading to safer schools, particularly for students of color because police officers, rather than trained counselors and teachers, are referred to handle behavioral issues. These “School Resource Officers” (SROs) are less likely to be trained in adolescent development and management and are more likely to refer kids to the justice system, leading them straight down the pipeline to prison for minor infractions characteristic of teenagers.

When funding goes to police or SROs rather than teachers and school counselors, students do not have the positive behavioral supports they need to stay engaged and achieve academic progress. Additionally when school administrators relinquish to SROs their disciplinary responsibilities, we see an increase of referrals to the juvenile justice system, further pushing children out of school. This is of particular importance because police in schools are called in for a variety of behaviors only about 5 percent of which are criminal offenses, but many of which are nevertheless referred to the justice system.

The good news is there is plenty that Congress can do to remedy this situation. Ferg-Cadima and Shoenberg left the audience with the call on Congress to:

Collect and research data regarding school discipline practices in their district;

Pressure the While House and Departments of Education and Justice to issue disciplinary guidance; and

Consider passing legislation including the Youth Promise Act and reauthorize and support the President’s budget for the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

We support the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute for hosting this discussion and for making this issue a priority, and we hope that Congress will take action to ensure the best future for all of America’s children.

March is Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing

Thursday, 13 March 2014 Posted in Across the Country, Campaigns, Take Action Now

Please consider joining our friends at the Healing Justice Coalition during Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing. The Healing Justice Coalition's initiative is based in California but all are invited to implement these efforts nationwide. For more details, please read their message below: 

The Healing Justice Coalition invites faith communities, schools, and universities to unite in prayer, service and action to raise awareness of the realities of incarcerated youth, victims of crime, and families of both. This takes place at your place of worship or school.

Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing (JJMFH) is an opportunity for deeper insight and reflection through cross-over experiences. The Healing Justice Coalition invites faith leaders to visit incarcerated youth. We also provide speaker panels of formerly incarcerated youth and victims of crimes to visit your places of worship and schools.

Together we can transform the paradigm of justice; moving from an over reliance on punishment, to focusing on healing the wounds caused by crime.

Opportunities for Faith Communities:During JJMFH, The Healing Justice Coalition invites faith leaders to visit youth inside juvenile halls in Los Angeles County to manifest God's love for all children. This is typically a mutually transforming experience; moving and profoundly spiritual for the youth as well as the visiting faith leaders.

Opportunities for Schools and Universities:Through the Healing Justice Coalition, formally incarcerated youth and victims of crime share their journeys  with students. JJMFH is a rich opportunity for students to explore and reflect on the complexities of crime and punishment while moving towards a deeper understanding of restorative justice. 

Participating in Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing is EASY and PROFOUND. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Host a "Voices of Challenge" panel: A formerly incarcerated youth, parent of an incarcerated youth and a survivor/victim of crime share their stories.
  • Invite a formerly incarcerated youth to share insight into the realities of incarceration and the strength of the human spirit.
  • Lead a discussion or seminar in your congregation and/or school about the needs and situations of incarcerated youth and victims of crime.
  • Faith Leaders can sign up for a group pastoral visit to juvenile hall.
  • Offer prayers for everyone who has been impacted by crime; including victims, offenders, and families of both.
  • Mobilize your congregation and/or school in support of legislation that promotes restorative justice principles.      


Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information about participating in Juvenile Justice Month of Faith and Healing and visit the Healing Justice Coalition website for useful resources/templates for your event. 




The 'Sweet Taste of Justice' was a Huge Success!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 Posted in Campaigns

The "Sweet Taste of Justice" event, hosted last week by the Campaign for Youth Justice, was a great success!  It was a night of celebration of the successes of the campaign and its allies' successes in working towards its mission of ending the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating youth in the adult criminal justice system, as well as a surprise award presentation to CFYJ President & Founder, Liz Ryan.

Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) is Only Two Months Away!

Angella Bellota Wednesday, 24 July 2013 Posted in Across the Country, Campaigns


During the month of October, allies throughout the country come together to engage their communities on youth justice issues, particularly the harmful impact of prosecuting children in the adult criminal justice system.  

Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) is an opportunity for families, youth, and allies to host community-led actions and events that expose the real-life consequences of children being processed in adult court and placed in adult jails and prisons. With events happening throughout the country, YJAM is not only a time to raise awareness but also a time to build collective action, to strengthen relationships with other advocates, and to join local advocacy campaigns working to create policy changes.

Every year in the U.S. an estimated 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults. These young people are our friends, siblings, sons and daughters. Each year, we build momentum to end the criminalization of our youth and the devastating long-term consequences they must face every day.

Will you join us in taking a stand for youth justice?  In past years, YJAM events have included:

  • 5K Run/Walk
  • Film Screenings
  • Art Exhibits
  • Poetry Slams
  • Community Service Days
  • Social Media campaigns
  • Teach-In Days  


The Campaign for Youth Justice plans to host several calls with those interested in organizing events in their state. If you would like to participate in these calls, please contact us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Upcoming calls:

  • July 30th - Hosting a 5K Run/Walk  
  • August 5th - FUNdraising for YJAM
  • August 19th - Media Planning for YJAM


STAY CONNECTED:

For general questions about YJAM or if you would like to host, organize or participate in a YJAM event, please contact CFYJ Field Organizer Angella Bellota: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

For media inquiries, please contact CFYJ Communications & Media Director Aprill Turner: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   

Please visit our YJAM page to learn about the history of YJAM and for a roundup of upcoming events! 

Jonathan’s Law Unanimously Clears Legislative Hurdle in Missouri

Tuesday, 26 February 2013 Posted in Campaigns

Yesterday the Missouri State Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed, “Jonathan’s Law”, a bill requiring judges to consider giving minors who have been convicted as adults, a juvenile sentence, and requiring an explanation why if they do not.

Jonathan's Law is in remembrance of Jonathan McClard, who committed suicide in an adult facility at the age of 17--fearing he would be sentenced to a long prison term with adults.

Jonathan's mother, Tracy McClard is the founder of Families and Friends Organized to Reform JuvenileJustice (FORJ-MO). McClard has been a champion for the legislation and says its passage could prevent future tragedies like what happened to her son.

“I am very excited by the support for juvenile justice reform we are receiving from Missouri's state capitol,” said McClard. “The fact that Jonathan's Law passed the senate judiciary committee with a unanimous vote speaks to the great desire to bring our children out of the adult system and once again treat our youth as children and not adults.”

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