School-Based Probation

Establishing partnerships between juvenile probation departments and schools is another innovative approach to effective intervention with young offenders, including juveniles on probation and, in jurisdictions where probation departments also serve youth returning from incarceration, juveniles on parole. The uniting of schools and probation departments has been successful in communities and counties across the United States, including Allentown, PA; Jefferson, IN; Norfolk, VA; and Fresno, Kern, Yuba, and Monterey Counties, CA.

Educators and juvenile probation officers share a common goal: helping young people acquire knowledge and develop skills that lead to positive and productive lifestyles. As officials of the juvenile court, school-based probation officers provide control, supervision, and incentives that delinquent youth often need to attend school regularly and comply with school rules and regulations. School-based probation officers can also intervene in crisis situations involving juvenile probation clients and can assist schools in handling disruptive behavior by clients. Schools can contribute to probation objectives by providing student probationers with a structured environment for learning basic life skills and by designing an academic program tailored to the juvenile's individual needs.

School-based probation officers may perform a variety of specific functions:

  • Notifying the school of a student's conditions of probation or parole and any special educational or therapeutic needs that should be addressed through school programming.

  • Monitoring the attendance, school performance, and behavior of youth on probation or parole or undergoing informal behavioral adjustment.

  • Conducting home visits and coordinating intervention services that must be obtained for students and families from sources outside the school system.

  • Coordinating reentry conferences for students returning to school following placement in a juvenile justice facility.

  • Providing services to minors who are not wards of the State but were referred to probation for a variety of reasons (including minor offenses, school discipline and behavior problems, and family difficulties).

  • Counseling young people in danger of being expelled due to truancy problems.

The Allentown Model

The practice of physically placing full-time juvenile probation officers on school campuses was first put into effect by Lehigh County Juvenile Probation and the Allentown School District in Pennsylvania.22 The goal of the program was to strengthen collaboration between the school district and the probation department toward meeting their common objectives. By creating a mutual understanding of each other's duties, functions, and limitations, the two agencies enhanced their ability to coordinate services for juveniles and their families.

The Allentown model uses a dual case management system for student probation clients. Juveniles are assigned two probation officers: a school-based officer, who develops treatment plans and handles day-to-day monitoring of the student's behavior, and a court-based officer, who attends all court proceedings and handles other out-of-school probation functions relative to that student. The school-based probation officers spend the majority of their time on campus.

The primary goal of probation officers is to provide guidance by helping juvenile probationers avoid situations that may lead them into further involvement with the juvenile justice system. Improving the school performance of student probationers is a key objective for achieving that goal. To monitor improvement, the two agencies must share relevant information with each other. The probation officer needs to be aware of the prior academic functioning of the student. The school needs to know about special education or treatment needs that can be addressed through district services.

At the inception of the Allentown program, juvenile record sharing was a major concern for both the school district and the probation department. The confidentiality of sensitive information needed to be preserved to avoid labeling or otherwise stigmatizing juveniles. These issues were worked out in a formal information-sharing agreement, which bases release of records on each agency's legitimate need to know.

In addition to specifying information-sharing arrangements, written agreements between the school district and probation department also outline funding arrangements and reporting structures and identify exactly what is expected of each of the parties involved. (Funding arrangements vary. For example, a school and a probation department may jointly pay the salaries of the officers involved, or one agency may provide the entire funding while the other furnishes office space and equipment.)

In developing a school-based juvenile probation program, precautions must be taken to ensure that the initiative is not actually creating additional referrals to and/or increasing involvement of youth with the justice system. To guard against this possibility, school-based probation officers should work only with youth already on juvenile probation and should not serve as general disciplinarians for the student body. The Allentown model requires that school-based probation be reserved for youth within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. School-based officers may also work with student parolees, either alone or in concert with parole/aftercare staff.

Sentenced To Serve—Personalized Learning Under Supervision (STS PLUS)

STS PLUS is a Minnesota program designed for delinquent youth who have experienced educational and vocational deficiencies and who are under the supervision of the court. The STS PLUS coordinator, school counselor, and probation officer create a personalized plan to help the client complete educational and vocational goals. Participating youth receive significant incentives: school credit is given for community service projects, and a portion of the court-ordered community work service is pardoned when the participant follows the personalized educational plan. Youth also receive rehabilitation service referrals and counseling as needed.

STS PLUS community service is performed in small groups (eight students or fewer) under the direction of a trained crew leader. Participants select worksites from a list of proposals submitted by public agencies and nonprofit organizations around the county; about half of the worksites involve environmental tasks, such as removing garbage, painting over graffiti, and planting trees. The Minnesota Department of Corrections operates the STS PLUS work crews and provides the trained crew leaders. Juvenile STS PLUS crews work Monday through Friday during the summer months and on weekends during the school year.

STS PLUS goals are as follows: increase life skills, improve school performance, enhance decisionmaking skills, assist youth in developing long-term goals to facilitate success, reconnect the offender to the community, provide a way for the offender to make amends to the community, and reduce delinquency.

Program funding sources include the Minnesota Department of Corrections; the Minnesota Department of Children, Family and Learning; Carver County Court Services; and the Carver-Scott Educational Cooperative.

Program evaluation findings include the following: STS PLUS reduces patterns of delinquent behavior (there is a 4-percent recidivism rate among participants); the program motivates youth to achieve educational, vocational, and individual goals and improves their attitudes about school, law-abiding behavior, and the community; participants learn important life skills such as how to set positive long- and short-term goals; participants are highly satisfied with the program; and STS PLUS is a cost-effective approach that can provide significant financial benefit to the community.

For more information about STS PLUS, contact Jerome Kleis, Juvenile STS PLUS Crew Leader, Carver County Court Services, 600 E. 4th Street, Chaska, MN 55318; 612-496-8920.

Probation/School Liaison Program

In this Norfolk, VA, program, seven probation/school liaison counselors work 8 hours per day every school day monitoring attendance, behavior, and academic performance of court-supervised youth in middle and high school. The counselors receive training in their liaison function. They also participate in disciplinary hearings and serve as a bridge between school personnel and probation officers.

The purpose of the program is to provide a Norfolk Court Services Unit presence in the schools so the probation officers responsible for students on probation or parole can be immediately aware when these students are truant or are experiencing other types of problems. Approximately 800 students participate in the program during each school year.

The probation/school liaison counselors receive office space, telephone access, and other support from the schools to which they are assigned. Norfolk Public Schools also provides administrative support that includes payroll and other billing functions.

During its 3 years of operation, the program has improved school attendance, behavior, and academic performance of court-supervised youth.

For more information about the Probation/School Liaison Program, contact Leslie Arnold, Probation/School Liaison Program, 800 East City Hall Avenue, P.O. Box 1357, Norfolk, VA 23501; 757-441-2811.

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From the Courthouse to the Schoolhouse: Making Successful Transitions Juvenile Justice Bulletin February 2000