Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $600,000)
OJJDP is partnering with the Department of Education and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to implement a multidisciplinary initiative to improve school climates, respond early and appropriately to student mental health and behavioral needs, avoid referring students to law enforcement and juvenile justice as a disciplinary response, and facilitate a proactive and supportive school reentry process in the rare instances in which a youth is referred. This is part of a larger effort to enhance collaboration and coordination among schools, mental and behavioral health specialists, law enforcement, and juvenile justice officials at the state and local levels and ensure adults have the support, training, and a shared framework to help students succeed in school and prevent negative outcomes. This program is authorized pursuant to paragraph (3)(D) under the Juvenile Justice heading in the Department of Justice Appropriations Act, 2014, P.L. 113-76, 128 Stat. 5, 64-65.
The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, First Judicial District of Pennsylvania Family Court in the First Judicial District (FJD) has collaborated with the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), Philadelphia Police Department, and Philadelphia's Departments of Human Services and of Behavioral Health to jointly develop the School Diversion Program. Like most large urban districts, SDP has struggled to maintain a positive and healthy school climate in its 214 schools. In 2013-2014, there were 7,569 serious incidents that led to 33,041 suspensions and 1,555 arrests of students. Racial disparities also persist in school-based referrals to the juvenile justice system and school discipline practices despite SDP making reforms away from zero-tolerance policies that are nationally recognized as contributing to the school to prison pipeline. The School Diversion Program aims to deliver a 50% reduction in the number of arrests and to eliminate the racial disparity of these arrests and school based disciplinary actions at SDP. The program will serve students who have committed first time, low-level delinquent acts on or about school premises, diverting them from arrest and into Intensive Prevention Services for them and their families.
The program will achieve its goals using the cross-sector collaborative framework of the Pennsylvania Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiatives Committee (JDAI), be evaluated and tracked by Drexel University and report regularly on progress to JDAI, the Mayor and Co-Chairs of the Youth Violence Prevention Collaborative.