An amended version of House Bill 1193, which came about as a result of a juvenile justice conference in August, passed out of the Senate's Judiciary Committee 6-1 Feb. 10. One major change in the bill approved by the committee was the deletion of the section about training for police officers who deal with juveniles on a regular basis.
"The training is probably the most important thing in this bill," said Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, following the hearing.
Lawson authored the bill after working with conference coordinators, including JauNae Hanger, a former commissioner of the Indiana Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services and former chair of the Indiana State Bar Association's Children's Rights Committee. The bar sponsored the juvenile justice conference last summer.
The other part of the bill, which would create a working group that will study how training efforts would make a difference and what other efforts could be made, remained intact. The working group would include school system representatives, parents, law enforcement officers, professors, teachers, social workers, attorneys, and other stakeholders.
Hanger said even without training in the bill, the work group would be a helpful way to gather data and present constructive suggestions for schools and the officers who regularly work in school systems.
At the committee hearing, debate about whether to include mandatory training centered around the fiscal impact, reported to be approximately $40,000. While some committee members discussed whether the money could possibly be found in funds that had not yet been assigned to certain programs, experts testified that the funds have to be used in appropriate ways, which could possibly include training.
Judge Steven Teske of Clayton County, Ga., a national expert on how zero tolerance in schools has affected the juvenile justice system, testified for the bill. He also testified for the House Judiciary Committee Jan. 12 and was a keynote speaker for the August conference. At both hearings, he presented data about his county as it related to zero-tolerance policies and alternatives to out-of-school suspensions for students, and how alternatives lowered detention rates and raised graduation rates. His presentation appeared to leave an impression on committee members.