Local community leaders joined today for signing ceremonies to announce the launch of the School Justice Partnership (SJP) in Greene and Lenoir counties. The SJP, identified as the Partnership Agreement Community Teams with Schools (P.A.C.T.S.), aims to keep kids in school and out of court by reducing law enforcement involvement in minor misconduct at schools.
Chief District Court Judge David Brantley, Judge Elizabeth Heath, and Judge Les Turner, as well as other leaders from the Judicial Branch, joined community leaders from Greene County, including Sheriff Lemmie Smith, Superintendent Patrick Miller, and School Board Chairperson Patricia Adams, as well as community leaders from Lenoir County, including Superintendent Brent Williams, School Board Chairperson Jon Sargeant, and Kinston Chief of Police Alonzo Jaynes.
"The strategies implemented by the P.A.C.T.S. agreement address minor juvenile misconduct in a way that provides more accountability for juveniles and their parents than the adult court system, which does not involve parents in the process," said Judge Heath. "It is particularly important for the public to know that this process not only considers the juvenile but also focuses on keeping schools and the surrounding communities safe."
The SJP is a group of community stakeholders-including school administrators, the law enforcement community, court system actors, juvenile justice personnel, and others-that will develop and implement effective strategies to address student misconduct. Currently, many students are suspended, expelled, and referred to court for minor misconduct which produces harmful outcomes for youth and their communities. Students who are suspended and expelled are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, and engage in higher levels of disruptive behavior. A single suspension also triples the likelihood that a student will enter the juvenile justice system. These negative outcomes disproportionately impact certain students, including youth of color and students with disabilities, who are more likely to be suspended, expelled, and referred to court than their peers.
SJPs, which keep kids in school and out of court, produce better outcomes by timely and constructively addressing student misconduct when and where it happens, helping students succeed in school and learn from their mistakes. By improving individual student outcomes, SJPs will enhance the learning environment for all students.
There is evidence that SJPs work. Judge Steven Teske's program in Clayton County, Georgia, known as the "Clayton County School Referral Reduction Protocol," resulted in a 67.4 percent decrease in referrals to juvenile court, a 43 percent decrease in referrals of youth of color to juvenile court, and a 24 percent increase in graduation rates. Similar programs in Texas and Connecticut also have experienced positive results. In North Carolina, New Hanover County's SJP resulted in a 47 percent decrease in referrals to the juvenile justice system in its first year. The Greene and Lenoir counties' SJP hopes to produce similar outcomes for youth in this community.
The School Justice Partnership is a group of community stakeholders who work together to establish specific guidelines for school discipline in a way that minimizes suspensions, expulsions, and school-based referrals to court for minor misconduct. The main goal of the SJP is to keep kids in school and out of court for routine misconduct at school. SJPs are being developed throughout North Carolina as a result of the state's recently enacted Raise the Age law.