Summit spurs school-focused bill

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A juvenile justice summit by the Indiana State Bar Association in August has led to the introduction of a bill that would change how students are treated in schools and hopefully decrease the number of school suspensions while increasing statewide graduation rates.

House Bill 1193, introduced by Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, marks the first statewide effort of its kind in the country for how it addresses the roles of school resource officers, educators, mental health professionals, social workers, and others who regularly interact with elementary school, middle school, and high school students.

The bill passed out of committee 10-0 Jan. 12 and has support from a number of organizations.

HB 1193 has two main purposes according to those who support it, including JauNae Hanger, a former commissioner of the Indiana Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services and former chair of the ISBA Children's Rights Committee; and Judge Steven Teske of Clayton County, Ga.

The first goal of the bill is to provide a framework for training officers who work with school-age children. The second goal is to have a working group that will study how those efforts make a difference and what other efforts could be made.

"We train officers how to handle narcotics, DUIs, traffic accidents, but we don't offer the same level of training for those who are dealing with kids," said Lawson, an experienced officer herself.

Juvenile Judge Marilyn Moores of the Marion Superior Court, who testified in support of the bill, also advocated for more police training for officers who regularly work with students and said there needs to be more consistency.

By developing a youth work group, better data will be available about what is being done already and what could be better when it comes to the relationships police officers and others have with children they come into contact with.

Part of the inspiration for the statewide legislation is work Judge Teske has done on a county level as a juvenile court judge for a suburb of Atlanta.

Judge Teske is nationally known for his work with alternatives to zero-tolerance policies. He's worked with school systems in Columbus, Ohio; Madison, Wis.; a county just outside of Boston; and schools in Oregon, Washington, and Louisiana that have similar issues in terms of low graduation rates and high rates of out-ofschool suspensions.

Besides being a keynote speaker at the August summit in Indiana, Judge Teske testified for the bill Jan. 12. He presented data about his county as it related to zero-tolerance policies and alternatives to out-of-school suspensions for students.

In his data, there were obvious decreases in misdemeanor arrests after the school system, juvenile court, and police department signed an agreement in 2004 that would allow for alternatives to suspension.

The alternatives were a warning for the first offense, a referral for the student to attend a workshop for the second offense, and a complaint would be filed at the third offense.

Judge Teske said in most cases the offenses would stop after the warning or the workshop. It was also discovered through the data that most of the misdemeanor offenses that caused students to miss school prior to the alternatives were relatively small things like mouthing off or arguments between students.

Felonies, which included bringing guns or drugs to school, also decreased nearly 50 percent in his county as a result of alternative punishments. Under the zerotolerance policy, suspension rates doubled, drop-out rates increased, and racial and ethnic disparities also increased.

Russell Skiba, director of the Equity Project at the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University, also participated in the August summit and testified on behalf of the bill. He added there was no proof of any positive effects of zero tolerance and that training was a better answer.

After the officers in Judge Teske's county received training and alternatives to taking students to the juvenile detention center for every seemingly small offense, not only did the numbers and bad behavior decrease on school campuses, the police made new allies in the community.

In one case, it was from talking to students that the police were able to arrest a member of the community who had $70,000 in cash, two pounds of marijuana, and a cache of weapons in his house.

Judge Teske also spoke about the role of school resource officers when there is an actual incident that warrants their attention, such as a student who is threatening his classmates or teachers, as opposed to a student who had a bad attitude but didn't cause or threaten physical harm.

By keeping the police - and probation officers - available for "the kids who scare us," he said, that will prevent worse tragedies than a food fight or a harmless misunderstanding.

As a result of the decrease in suspensions, there was a steady increase in graduation rates from when the alternatives were introduced in 2004 to 2009.

"Who would have thought that if you kept kids in school they would actually graduate?" he quipped.

Judge Teske and other supporters of the bill recognize there is a difference between implementing a program for a county and implementing a program for a state where every county has different needs and resources. Judge Teske said the bill would still allow each county to determine its own best practices based on what was available.

Lawson said she was pleased that all stakeholders in Indiana were willing to come together on this issue. For instance, educators need to teach math and reading, but they can't be effective if they have disruptive students.

But teachers are aware that "if they ask Johnny why he's being disruptive, they have to be prepared to deal with the answer," Lawson said.

This is where social workers, mental health workers, and others in the community can work with the teachers on how to deal with the issues of students who need help by providing information about resources available in the community to children and their families.

In addition to the bill, Hanger and Paje Felts, legislative counsel for the Indiana State Bar Association, said the next step is to finish a report based on what summit participants said about Indiana's current policies. While the report was the first priority following the summit, Hanger said they wanted to keep up the momentum and chose to work on the legislation.

Felts said she was happy to see support for the bill and what it stands for, and that it was rewarding to her and everyone else at the summit that their August discussion would have a lasting impact.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  3. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.