DURBIN: For many young people, our schools are now a gateway to the criminal justice system.
It’s December 2012, and Senator Dick Durbin is calling to order a Judiciary Committee hearing. To civil rights advocates, it feels like a huge moment, a turning point. It’s the first ever congressional hearing on the school to prison pipeline.
This school to prison pipeline has moved scores of young people from classrooms, to courtrooms.
You have surely heard this metaphor -- the pipeline -- it’s now embedded in our political lexicon...
Obama: In too many cases, our criminal justice system ends up being a pipeline from underfunded, inadequate schools to overcrowded jails.
The problem it describes actually stretches way back to the early 90s. You’ll recall our conversation in Episode 1 of this podcast, about super-predators and the law and order crackdown of that era...
HILLARY CLINTON: “...they are often the kinds of kids that are called super-predators, no conscience, no empathy…”
Well it wasn’t just cops and courts that got tough on youth; it was also schools. They developed what they called “zero tolerance” policies. Same idea as with policing -- if you wanna stop the big stuff, you gotta come down hard, even on the small stuff.
By the end of the 90s, civil rights advocates had begun documenting how this idea -- get tough on discipline -- it had radically changed schools, particularly in black and brown communities. It took at least a decade of research and advocacy, but finally, late in the Obama era, those advocates felt the focus starting to shift... from demands for “zero tolerance”...to concern, over the “school to prison pipeline”
JUDITH: My name is Judith Browne Dianis. I’m co-director of the Advancement Project, a multiracial civil rights organization.
Dianis’ group wrote one of the first studies to establish the pipeline idea. At that 2012 Senate hearing, she explained how it works to Dick Durbin.
JUDITH: Police are arresting students for behaviors like talking back. That is now disorderly conduct. Or writing on desks. That is called vandalism.
One childish act after another, now a crime. And some, crimes of necessity.
JUDITH: … An honors student in Houston, Texas, spent the night in jail because she missed class because she had to go to work to support her family.
In 2007, a 13-year-old from North Carolina was handcuffed and removed from school for writing the word ‘‘Okay’’ on her desk. Treating students like criminals, does not make sense.
A lot of people now agree -- teachers unions, school administrators, even some cops. It’s a pretty striking shift. But the implications aren’t as straightforward as you might imagine. Because like everything about the way we’ve criminalized kids, “zero tolerance” didn’t just rise up out of the air. A lot of people demanded it -- and the need they thought it would meet is still there.
I’m Kai Wright, and this is Caught. In this episode, we go to a place where the debate over the school to prison pipeline has been uniquely intense.
We sent reporter Marianne McCune to the south east corner of Washington State, to a town called Walla Walla. Marianne trailed a probation officer around town, and landed in the home of a very sweet 15-year old we’ll call Maria.
MARIANNE MCCUNE: Maria is not the kind of kid who gets into trouble. She’s polite, she looks you in the eye and she looks on the bright side - despite some tough times growing up. Like, that summer her family was homeless --
MARIA: That was like the best summer ever I think yeah. ... it just seemed like a really long vacation.
MM: Or the year her mom - who suffers from anxiety cried to Maria every night because she thought Maria’s dad was cheating --
MARIA: She always had me go get a pillow, and she would hold it into her and Rock back and forth. She would ask me to hold her hand, just tell her everything's okay, cuz she thought she was dying.
I love her with all my heart and stuff. She's like my best – she is my best friend actually.
MM: Maria’s parents split. Her mom lives with boyfriend and new twin babies. Maria lives with her dad, a few blocks away. With her dad, she’s got three little sisters at home. In the living room, with the sisters’ big bed in the middle, posters of Washington and Jefferson on the wall, they’re constantly pushing their long dark hair behind their ears to draw and write journals and stories --
MARIA: I write stories and just like put all my feelings into a character.
DAD: These girls to go through a stack of printing paper like this..
MM: Her gray-haired dad holds his thumb and finger far apart.
MARIA: I want to go to college
MM: Maria says she wants to be a writer - or a clothes designer.
MARIA: I want to have really nice house and lot of money, and so I could take care of you and Mom when you're old.
DAD: She's a father's dream, couldn't ask for a better daughter.
MARIA: (door squeak) it's dark in here. Ah, no lights...
In Maria’s room, on the wall up above the cat litter, she’s tacked up a photo of the Eiffel Tower.
MM: You want to end up in Paris?
MARIA: Yes, I want to go there before I before I pass away.
But the way things are going? Paris is a longshot. She might not make it out of Walla Walla, because: Maria refuses to go to school. When I met her, she hadn’t gone to school at all for several months. Which, statistically, sets her up not for Paris but for unemployment or some of the lowest paying jobs.
And she knows it! Her school counselors and teachers and mom and dad all tell her that she has to seize the moment.
DAD: You know ships not going to just sail right up and say ‘hello, here I am. Here's your ship.’ And sail away with you. I mean sometimes you gotta swim out to meet it, you know, and find it.
Maria has heard this kind of thing so many times, from so many people. And what she tells them back is that she’s crippled by “anxiety.”
MM: Where'd you learn to call it anxiety?
MARIA: My mom.
When she goes to school, she says:
MARIA: My face starts burning in my stomach is like – not the exciting feeling but like the feeling you're going to get in trouble or ...scared. I feel like I'm not good enough. I feel like everybody is judging me.
MM: has anybody ever told you that every kid your age feels like every kid is judging them?
Maria: Yeah, a lot of people say that but I think it's something different.
She has seen a doctor and a counselor, intermittently, tried meds for the anxiety, but says they didn’t help. And for the people trying to help her - at home and at school, it’s hard to figure out whether her truancy is because of debilitating anxiety, or whether it’s just self-perpetuating.
MARIA: And then I skip for a long time. I'm scared to go back to school cuz it's how much I skip, so I just don't go at all.
Experts will tell you truancy is ‘addictive.’
I just feel so stupid because when the teacher calls on me I...I don’t know what they’re doing at all. like like I have no idea what's going on.
Whatever the reason, Maria just wants to stay home. And in Washington State, that means she could end up … not in Paris … but behind bars. I actually met Maria through her probation officer.
VANCE: And I'm the truancy coordinator for Walla, Walla County,
This is Vance Norsworthy - typical law enforcement … only in that he drinks a lot of coffee and he’s happy when his colleagues bring treats to work.
VANCE: Someone made pumpkin muffins. you want a pumpkin muffin?
Vance is the guy the schools call when a kid is absent more than a week in a month (or more than ten days in a year. Washington State requires them to alert the courts, actually. The courts will then order the kids to go to school. At that point, Vance’s job is to get them to start going.
VANCE: I'd like to think that we are are very good about not putting kids in detention. For simply not going to school. …we want you to go to counseling if you need it. We want you to change your schedule if you need to. Whatever it takes to get you to school. But if you don't and you're capable of going, you could be held in contempt.
Contempt of court for failing to go to school, even though the court has ordered you to. And that is when a judge can order a kid to spend up to 7 days in detention. So Vance spends a lot of his time driving around Walla Walla, visiting kids like Maria and trying to solve their problems.
VANCE: Well, she's in contempt right now of a order to attend school
One morning last Fall, Vance headed to Maria’s apartment for that very reason. It was 10am on a monday morning so: school hours. But he was pretty sure he’d find her home.
VANCE: We’re going to go to the house where she lives with her siblings…
Depending on what part of Walla Walla you’re driving through, it looks very rich or very poor. There’s a fancy private university and a growing wine industry and some streets are lined with century old mansions and the red and yellow leaves of liquid, amber trees. But on the other side of the tracks, the houses are small or divided into rental units. They need new paint jobs. You can buy drugs in one of the supermarket parking lots (people call it “ghetto Safeway”).
VANCE: I'm going to turn around here real quick…. watch the puddles.
The back way to Maria’s was kind of a muddy, dirt alley.
VANCE: We'll see if she's here
MH: All right, let's go.
We walked up this dark staircase to the apartment -- and there was Maria, answering the door right away.
VANCE: Hey, how are you? Good? Good good? You have a little bit of time to talk?
MARIA: We’re going to the doctor.
Not only was Maria home, but all three of her younger sisters... one in bed with a sore throat, the others just a little bit sniffly. While their dad was getting all of them ready to take the bus to the doctor, Vance stole some time with Maria to warn her:
VANCE: If you continue to miss school, we would have to have you go to court, okay? And I know you don’t wanna do that.
Maria was supposed to be seeing a counselor - also by court order - but the counselor had told Vance Maria was missing her appointments.
VANCE: Remember what we talked about. That I can work with you on on your attendance issues ... but you have to go to those appointments.
With Maria’s permission, Vance called the counselor. He offered to drive everyone to the doctor. He asked if dad was ok on rent, to be sure they could stay in the apartment.
Maria’s father only went to school until he was 13, then went to work at a chain restaurant. Now he’s on government assistance. He told Vance he wants Maria and her sisters to have more options.
DAD: I'm kind of the end of my rope, really. I get tired of yelling at my kids. I don't want … them to be scared of me. I don’t want them doing things ‘cuz they’re afraid I’m gonna whoop up on them or scream at them. I want them to do things cuz they know it’s the thing to do.
But whatever he tries, he can’t seem to make Maria go.
MARIA: He said he would never give up on me ever. But I think that's what happened. He just stopped making me go to school because I refused to every single day, so he was like, you know what? I'm just done trying to help you.
VANCE: So okay, I'm going to get out of here,
EVERYONE: Thank you. Thank you. See you later.
Back at the office, Vance told me Maria’s dad is clearly well-meaning--
VANCE: He's very pleasant, he’s kind. You can tell when he interacts with his his girls that he loves them and wants them to do well, but . . . there's a problem where he has lost a little bit of authority in some ways … he's not even sure he can tell his daughters what to do and when to do it. And that's a theme that I think I've seen a lot.
So the question for Vance was: what could HE do to make her go? Which would be more effective - help? Or consequences? Because though Vance speaks softly, part of his job is to carry a big stick.
KAI: Up next, why Washington state got into the business of using the stick instead of the carrot, when it comes to kids not following the rules.
ACT 2: why and how the school to jail pipeline was created
Kai: Marianne, part of me is listening to this story and thinking wow, ust for not going to school they’re sending Maria to detention?
MM: They really could.
Kai: And that’s shocking. But the other half of me is like - yeah - this sounds really familiar. This is it… this is the school to prison pipeline we’ve been talking about.
MM: t is - Skipping school - truancy - it wouldn’t be a crime if you were an adult. So it’s part of this group of sort of bad behaviors that are called ‘status offenses’ - they’re only illegal because of your status as a minor. So it’s… not going to school, not coming home when you’re supposed to, running away from home - and sometimes drinking alcohol is part of it.
Kai: And it’s I think a big part of the racial disparity as well?
MM: Uh huh, I think as everything else in juvenile justice, depending on where you are and who you are, the courts respond very differently to these offenses. There’s a lot of leeway. So, disproportionate numbers of black and latino kids end up in detention for this stuff… as you might expect if you’ve been listening to this podcast. Also Native Americans. And in Walla Walla County, about 90% of people identify as white, so white kids are obviously affected too. But this also disproportionately affects poorer kids and girls.
Kai: Oh yeah, ok. So I was gonna ask about that.
MM: Yea, so girls make up a pretty small percentage of kids in detention for commiting more serious crimes. But when it comes to status offenses, they make up about 40% of kids in detention nationwide. Some researchers have argued that there’s this paternalistic thing going on: that we have to protect them from themselves.
KAI: But it’s interesting - having said all that as I listen to your story about this girl Maria (who - by the way is she Latina?
MM: She is, yeah.
KAI: When I listen to Vance and her family talk, it really sounds like they’re trying to help her. Not just punish her. That this is really about….can we help her?
MM: You’re absolutely right. And - Washington State is a really interesting place to look at this issue because when you go back in time and look at why they started putting kids like these in front of a judge or into detention, it didn’t arise out of the same kind of fear of the ‘super predator’ like you’ve talked about in the other episodes. It wasn’t this desire to crack down on and punish kids. The idea was - and still is really - to HELP them. It started 20 years ago - when a young white girl who was not listening to her parents, not doing what they told her to do, not going to school and not going home at night, either, ended up dead.
Sounds of the legislature....
This is the House children family services committee.
These are recordings from testimony of Washington state legislature back in 1995. And among those testifying were the parents of Rebecca Hedman, known as Becca.
Becca had been sexually abused as a baby, then was adopted by the Headman family, where there was some abuse as well. Around age 12, she started running away.
HEDMAN: She would disappear for six to nine days at a time.
...from the Hedman’s and then from treatment facilities.
Audio of testimony
… but they couldn't. And the cops couldn’t arrest her because running away wasn't a crime in Washington.
HEDMAN: The only way we knew was because Becca would call home and check on dad, because they knew I was really worried about her.
Becca ended up addicted to crack, selling sex to support her addiction and, when she was 13 - she was beaten to death by a John.
Testimony: Threw her nude body...thank god my daughter
Her parents were - of course - distraught and furious. They felt they’d had no recourse. And eventually they took her story to the state capitol, along with other parents who had faced the same struggle.
NEWS: The same night Rebecca was murdered, my daughter ran away.
Probably don’t know where their children…
We want our children safe.
We need our parental rights back.
It seems like sheer lunacy to me that we’re even hear arguing for the right to save our children from the streets.
In 1995, the Becca Bill was passed.
If this law would have been….Becca would have been alive today
One more death would have been too expensive…
Kai: So the Becca Bill was really a response to parents needing - or at least wanting - help.
MM: Yea, when our Walla Walla truancy officer Vance Norsworthy talks about it, he says the whole idea of it is to Interrupt the behavior.
VANCE: If there’s stuff going on and it's escalating and it's dangerous and the parents are asking for help, we have to first interrupt the behavior.
MM: So with the Becca Bill, once parents or schools reported those behaviors to the courts, a judge could order the kid to shape up: go to school everyday! Or be home by 6pm every night. Then if the kid didn’t do it, then he’d be in “contempt of court” - which is what Maria was. And possibly facing time.
KAI: And it sounds like, once they had that option - of sending kids to detention - they used it.
MM: Yes, they did. Originally, the Becca Bill envisioned runaways and kids with problems going to these secure crisis centers residential programs, not necessarily to detention. But those of course were never built in a lot of counties – Walla Walla never had one – and their were juvenile detention centers, so the courts ended up using what was available. By two years in, the number of kids being detained for status offenses was ballooning. And now the state leads the nation in detaining kids for status offenses. And a big part of it is this truancy policy, where the schools are obligated to refer truants to the court. And about half of the kids referred to the courts, are referred for truancy.
MM: Now to people like Vance - who is a probation officer, but also the son of a sociologist - this has become a sort of embarrassment.
VANCE: The worst way to look at it is that what we created this, this avenue to detention for kids just not going to school. ... But the intent was never to do that.
MM: And it’s not as if every kid in Washington referred to the courts for missing school has done time for it. In one county, a judge was sending about a third of all the truants he saw to juvie, but overall -- in recent years about one in ten got locked up last year. And yet, even in Walla Walla where Vance and the schools work hard to find other interventions, some kids have ended up behind bars just for missing school. In fact, Maria - the would-be writer Vance keeps warning about Juvie - she already got locked up once. At age 13. Just after her parents had split up.
MARIA: I went into depression and that's when I didn't want to go to school anymore and everything just fell apart.
All that year school and juvenile justice staff tried to help her and her family figure it out. But nothing worked, and eventually, she was found in contempt of court for continuing to skip school. And warned about detention --
MARIA: My mom kept telling me every day and my probation officer kept telling me like you got to go to school. This is going to happen. I just didn't really know that they're going to actually do it.
Finally, she got 7 days in juvie.
Sound of going on a tour: So this is...
Vance took me on a tour and Walla Walla has one of the nicer juvenile detention centers I've ever seen. It’s small - only 12 cells, there’s a library, and a friendly classroom. But it's still lock-up. If you're a truant, you're likely in there with kids who've done a lot worse stuff. When she was inside, Maria says she was accidentally put into a drug counseling class - even though she had no history of use.
MARIA: I just had to sit there with whole bunch of the people that were like talking about like what happened to them when they are high and stuff like that, I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh.’
MM: And so what impact on you did that have?
MARIA: I felt like, dumb that I went to juvie. ... and people might think of me as a bad person or something when I'm really not. I just I think it's pretty stupid that they take you to court for not going to school. It’s just dumb.
In Washington State and across the country, there is a big push to stop detaining kids like Maria. Almost no one wants someone like her sitting in detention alongside kids who’ve been dealing drugs or worse. Across the country, the number of kids locked up for truancy or other status offenses has declined in recent years. And to reduce those numbers even more, a new law in Washington State requires truant kids to go before what they’re calling a ‘community truancy board’ before they ever see a judge.
PAM: What can we do to help? Do you want me to call in the mornings? Fades under: What’s the hard part?
MM: Pam Jacobson’s job at Walla Walla High has always been half attendance secretary, half first-responder.
PAM: Are you seeing an outside counselor? Can we help you find an outside counselor?
But now she’s working with Vance and others to set up these official meetings with kids and their parents, to identify the problem and agree on a plan.
PAM: Should we come by and pick her up? Are mornings harder than afternoons? What is it that's causing the anxiety?
The idea is to make sure detention is truly a last resort. And, Pam points out, that can require a lot of patience. Because it is NOT easy to fix the problems they encounter.
PAM: Kids stories are overwhelming, Life is overwhelming sometimes. It's not going to change instantly, and I always want to say that it's not going to be different instantly tomorrow.
And that lack of instant change - that is not easy for some people to stomach. If - from one side - Vance is being pushed to slow down and delay putting kids before a judge - from another - he’s being begged to do something - fast! He constantly gets calls from distressed parents.
VANCE: I don't know what to do. I'm at my wit's end. I don't know where my son or daughter is. I think they're using. They won't listen to me.
MM: And what do they ask you to do?
VANCE: Well, from just flat out saying could you please lock up my kid cuz I don't know what else to do. To, please tell the judge what's going on. Unfortunately teachers and parents and school folks are asking the court to stay involved really because, for a large population of kids, we're not finding the right solution for helping them right now.
MM: Data does show that truancy is a warning sign that other bad behavior will follow. And sometimes court can seem like the only thing that will immediately keep a kid out of trouble.
Take this girl we’ll call Janie, who ...who Vance and I run into at a place everyone calls: the transfer station. It’s the central bus stop.
VANCE: Transfer station has just become a hangout for struggling kids.
What some parents would call 'the wrong crowd.'
KID: They don’t make me do anything I don’t wanna do.
Vance is looking for a kid who pulled a BB gun on someone earlier in the day. But Janie comes to Vance's car window with the friendliest, good girl face.
VANCE: If you see, tell him to see me. I know he likes to come over here, right? Oh, yeah, right?
Janie also likes to hang out here --
VANCE: You’re back on track. It’s not worth it. There are good people here. They're also people that give really shitty advice, be careful who you’re talking to right? Okay right? Thank you nice to meet you.
MM: Janie was referred to Vance for missing a lot of school - just like Maria. But her case quickly became more urgent, at least from her mom’s point of view.
Hello, how are you? Thank you for letting me come over...fader under: hi hi sweetie
They live on the other side of two sets of train tracks, down the street from Washington street penitentiary with their two dogs - Brody and Ferocious and Janie’s little boy - she had him a few years ago when she was 15.
Janie’s wideset, seen-it-all eyes run in the family. You see it on her mom and on lots of the family photos in their living room.
JANIE: That is my uncle and my other uncle.
MOM: Love that photograph.
JANIE: They were in Snake River Correctional Institution.
Janie's dad was in prison, too, for half her life. When she was 14 and a freshman, she got pregnant, and discovered a heart problem at the same time.
MOM: She missed a lot of school. Because we weren't sure what was going on and then they wanted her to stay home.
Vance helped explain that to her high school. It’s a school that is all about meeting kids where they are. So, sophomore year, after she had her little boy, he and the school worked out a modified schedule so she could get herself and her son to class and to the daycare they have.
JANIE: Then I got to school a lot more than before.
But by junior year - right after her dad got out of prison and took off - her mom says she got depressed. She stopped taking medicine for ADHD.
MOM: She started hanging out with the wrong crowd started missing more school. She was ditching school to hang out with these friends.
VANCE: I'm the one that looks into those cases, and for whatever reason she was not one that went to the top of my list as far as risk. … I think the school was probably saying oh, she's having more unexcused absences, but it didn't reach the level of saying, we gotta do something.
MOM: That's when I think she started drinking, smoking marijuana. She starting staying out all night, sometimes with a girl with a criminal record.
MM: She started staying out all night, sometimes, with a girl with a criminal record.
MOM: They were sleeping on the streets, it’s getting cold outside. I thought they would freeze to death. .I mean she sent me a text message that she couldn't be a mom anymore... at the young age she was at, she was hands-on good mom, and then it just went out the window. And I knew that something was wrong, mentally inside there, and I didn't know how to help her. I needed help before I lost her.
That’s when Janie was arrested and cited for being drunk in a public space. Which is not enough to hold her in detention - unless she’s seen as at-risk which is what her mom started pushing for.
MM: Did you at that point feel like, I need the court’s help?
MOM: Yeah. I felt that I was losing my daughter.
The court ultimately took her mom’s perspective into account and Janie was locked up for 7 days. When she was released, but didn’t follow a court order to go to school and come home at night, she was arrested again. 10 more days of detention.
MOM: I mean, I hated to have to have help from the courts to help get her back, but at the same time. I would rather her be mad at me and hate me for putting her there instead of losing her.
MM: And did you feel like there was any other option for help?
MOM: I took her a lot of places and they really didn’t help me that much. Yeah, she’s seen a counselor... I didn’t feel that they were helping enough.
When I met Janie, she’d been out for just three days. And she said she pretty much agreed with her mom: that detention was a good thing for her.
JANIE: I had a lot of time to think about the things I was doing. That's really all you have to do you sit in your cell, think about everything that you did, and read your book. Stare at the wall.
MM: And when you’re home do you read a lot, too?
JANIE: No, I don't read at all when I’m at thome home. That that was the weird thing about it. It was weird.
Well not that weird, I think, watching her manage a rambunctious toddler while trying to tell me how juvie helped her out.
JANIE: I believe it was a good thing… it helped me.
JANIE: No, I have to talk. . . .Yeah, it helped me, it was a good experience.
BOY: Listen! Don’t talk. (laughing)
MRS C: They’re away from violence; they’re away from drugs; they’re away from the gangs; they’re away from the stress at home.
This is Donna Coffeen, who taught school at Walla Walla Juvie for 20 years. The kids call her Mrs C.
MRS C: They're going to bed at a regular time. They're getting three healthy meals and a cup of healthy snacks a day. They're getting physical exercise. Within a few days of coming into a Detention Center there many kids whose eyes would clear their personality would change, and you would actually start to thrive in my classroom. Which book can I read next? ... Read another book. I love that book. I never thought I liked reading before.
When Maria was in detention? One of her favorite memories is of Mrs. C reading out loud.
MARIA: I can’t remember what it was called, but I wish I was there to like listen to the end of it.
MM: So you can see why parents might see detention as a solution. The problem is … for all the downtime and reading and healthy food and sleep … in the long run, detention just doesn’t help. A stack of studies show it does NOT help kids get back to school or change the behaviors we want them to change. It either has no impact, or it has a negative impact on their long-term ability to straighten out their lives. Even Mrs C - after working there for two decades - sees little benefit to juvie.
MRS C: All these kinds of wonderful things can happen, but then if we throw them back out in the same problems, that are the problems that caused them to end up there in the first place -- it's not lasting.
MM: Janie was released from Walla Walla detention center on the following terms: she was to go to school in the morning and a drug and alcohol counseling program in the afternoon. She had big plans to get her life together.
JANIE: Today is my first day, and we learned some stuff about stress.
MM: Like what?
JANIE: Like, they’re talking about animals and how like animals get stressed but they can turn their stress thing off, but we can’t.
The next day...
MM: I am just stopping by the transfer station to see who is hanging out there and over there…
There was Janie.
...in like a purple sweatshirt , smiling
That was in November. By January she was arrested and detained again. And last I checked, she was out, but with a warrant for her arrest.
JANIE: My friends are my friends. It’s irritating that my mom doesn't really like them.
(from state legislature): The early learning and human services committee will come to order...
Over the winter, WA state came closer than ever to changing how it handles status offenses. Legislators almost voted on a bill that would’ve put an end to detention for status offenses.
“The court may no longer issue orders directing law enforcement to pick up and place youth in detention.”
...keeping kids out of detention beds, the bill said, would save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in each county. The idea is to put more resources upstream, to keep kids from becoming truants in the first place.
Morning madam chair, members of the committee…my name is . . . Steve...
But the state Judges’ association testified against it.
Because it’s the only sanction we have got that the child doesn’t have to cooperate with. I can tell a child to go to school. I can tell a child to quit running away to their pimp, I can tell a child to get drug treatment. . .
MM: Without the treat of detention, kids will just tell them to buzz off...
Buzz off old man. I don’t have to pay any attention you … I don’t want . . .
Okay, my Shelley Phipps, I am the intervention specialist here…
MM Those judges have an unexpected alley in a school school counselor at Walla Walla’s alternative High School.
SP: there’s a lot of kids who have the idea that being that in the court process is enough to scare them into coming to school. .
MM: SP spends all day everyday trying to meet kids where they are and adopt school to their needs. Still she says she could really use help from a scary judge now and then.
SP: You know, that is one thing I hear that comes right from their mouth. I do not want to go to have to go to court. It is a huge deterrent for them.
MM: She does not love detention as a consequence.
SP: I don’t.
MM: Maybe Community services. Take their cell phone?
SP: A deterrent.
MM: Walla’s Walla’s truancy’s officer, Vance. This year he’s gone back and forth on consequences.
Vance: I mean why why are we in the business of scaring kids into going to school? … what are we really doing? are we trying to tell the kids if you don't get counseling and if you don't take your medication, and if you don't see your doctor, and if you don't deal with your asthma, we're going to put you in detention? Well, that's not where we want to be.
MM: On the other hand, Vance is a law enforcement officer. If there is no law enforcement consequence, Why is he in the picture at all.
VANCE: should it be the court of natural consequences? where we don't be where we get out of the business of truancy all together.
Maria, Vance’s toughest case, she’s on board with that.
Maria: I think they should just leave us alone and like let us just do our own thing.
MM: Meaning you think kids shouldn't have to go to school.
Maria: If they absolutely don't want to become anything, then that's just them.
MM: What if the kid isn't going to school because the kid needs help?
Maria: Oh like home problems?
MM: yeah, or anxiety problems.
Maria: Um, I don't know.
We talk about this juvenile justice pendulum swinging back and forth decade after decade between punishment and support. Well, for Vance that pendulum swings back and forth on a daily basis. One day he is the law. The next he is a social worker with very little training. Over the winter he got maria into a GED program run Mrs. C, the teacher from juvie who everyone loves.
Mrs C: we have a pool table and a foosball table and a kitchen with hot chocolate and popcorn and they come in in the morning and they can get a bowl of cereal ….or a cup of hot soup.
So Maria agreed to go three days a week, three hours each. She actually seemed excited! She went on the first day. Again on the second. Then started falling off...
Let’s go see if she’s here…
Vance started going to her apartment to try to help her dad get her out of the house.
. . . She doesn’t want to come out.
MM: There have been good days. One day Vance found maria where she was supposed to be with Mrs. C.
Vance: So you’re here.
MM: She told him that her dad had taken all the phones and screens away the night before and everyone went to sleep on time.
Maria: We didn’t let us watch TV or anything.
Maria’s Dad has talked with Vance, too.
Vance: why don’t you come on back..
He tells Vance he is trying so hard. He even threatens her with the courts himself.
Dad: I fight and scream but they’re not afraid of the courts.
Vance: I thought I could annoy her into going to school.
MM: And now Maria’s sister is following in her footsteps. . . So Vance has decided to use every tool he’s got: for younger sister meet with the school and family to come up with a plan. For Maria, he’s taking a hard line. He’s given her a court date.
Vance: She is going to be faced with detention and time and then she’s going to have to figure out …
MM: she might end up back in Juvie.
Coming what parents who have a lot more resources than Maria’s dad can do when they get desperate.
So these are places in the wilderness… they are therapeutic. You are going to backpack and camp in the rough
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