The Juvenile Justice Shared Initiative grew out two conferences that took place within a month of each other at the end of 2004. At the first one, the 67th annual conference of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), one plenary session addressed the issue of meeting the needs of students with disabilities in juvenile justice settings. The plenary featured two states – Florida and Arkansas – that had developed specific programs to meet the educational needs of this population. The audience was challenged to go back to their states and take a look at their own programs and how these students might be better served. Shortly after the conclusion of the NASDSE conference, the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) held its own conference for disability rights advocates that included a session focused on this very same issue. NASDSE’s executive director, Bill East, attended that session and, as an audience participate, urged the two organizations join together to work on our shared concerns about both the number of students with disabilities in the juvenile justice system and the paucity of programs to meet their needs.
NDRN and NASDSE staff began working together to plan an initial meeting to see if there was interest on the part of other groups and individuals working in this area in the development of what came to be called the “Juvenile Justice Shared Agenda.” A small group of interested individuals met for the first time in March, 2005. Those participating in the meeting all agreed to the need for developing a “shared agenda,” but it took several more meetings and conference calls before the “shared agenda” became to take shape as having two distinct components. The first part would be an in-depth overview of the issues and the second part would be a series of “tools for success” – best and promising practices that were being implemented with success in schools throughout the country and could be used in classrooms to prevent students – including those with disabilities – from being referred to the juvenile justice system because of their behavior in school. The Tools section began to take shape through a series of conference calls and eventually evolved into the set of nine components or Steps that relate to various stages of a student’s age, juvenile status or type of intervention that are included in this document. Further, the group as a whole made the decision that the target audience for the white paper and Tools would be educators. Through numerous discussions, it was noted that many, many papers had already been written targeted to professionals working in the juvenile justice system. For the Shared Agenda, the focus would be on keeping children and youth out of that system and educators are well-positioned to help with this critical need.
The nine Steps included in this document are:
- Pre-school Early Intervention: Birth Through Age 5
- Universal Interventions
- Targeted Interventions
- Intensive Interventions
- Transition from School to Post-School Activities
- Children in the Child Welfare System
- Court-Involved Youth
- Youth in Juvenile Justice Facilities and
- School Re-enrollment and Transition from Juvenile Justice Facilities
Steps 2, 3 and 4, which contain tools related to intervention strategies, parallel the thinking behind the concept of Response to Intervention (RtI). RtI is neither a tool nor a step, but an approach to education defined by instruction or intervention, matched to student need, that has been demonstrated through scientific research and practice to produce high learning rates for most students. RtI represents a tiered approach to intervention using these same concepts of universal, targeted and intense instruction. The same tiered construct has been demonstrated to effective in approaches to classroom management. (For a complete description of these constructs, see School Leadership for Improving the Lives of Youth: Innovative Steps for Preventing Placements of Youth in the Juvenile Justice System, the white paper accompanying this Tools document.)
Once the nine Tools sections were identified, NDRN and NASDSE, as the co-leaders of the Shared Agenda, began looking for individuals to lead the research and writing for each tool. Some of the original participants led sections and others worked as part of a team. Additional organizations and individuals with specific subject-matter expertise were identified and “recruited” to work on the various components. It is important to note that:
(1) This was not intended to be a research project. Most of the individuals who worked on the Tools are not researchers, but are practitioners with extensive knowledge of a variety of programs and practices. Each team was tasked to identify approximately 5-7 tools for its section, write up a brief summary of the tool and identify resources for individuals wishing more information on each tool.
(2) All of the work was done by volunteers – many of whom worked outside of their regular jobs to complete their team’s work.
(3) Each tool was selected as illustrative of a practice that is currently in use in schools around the country. These write-ups are not intended to be endorsements of any particular program. Over time, we hope to be able to identify other best, promising or emerging practices that will be added to these Tools. In addition, some tools that are identified as promising or emerging may undergo additional research that proves them to be evidence-based practices.
Appendix A lists all of the contributors to the Tools. Their affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and this does not imply an endorsement of the Tools by their organizations.
The Three Categories of Tools
Due to a concern that our volunteers would not be able to find a large number of research-based best practices, the decision was made that groups should identify tools that fell into one of three categories – best, promising or emerging. Briefly summarized, these are:
- Best practices (also known as evidence-based practices) are documented through a synthesis of research studies involving experimental or quasi-experimental research designs.
- Promising practices are interventions, administrative practices or approaches for which there is considerable evidence or expert consensus, but are not yet proven by the strongest scientific evidence.
- Emerging practices are new innovations that do not yet have scientific evidence or broad expert consensus support.
Appendix B includes a more complete description of each category.
Components of Each Tool
Each of the nine Tool sections is constructed in the same manner. They each contain approximately 5-7 tools. For each tool, there is a brief overview or description of the program; implementation essentials (so educators will know what materials they will need to implement the program in their classroom or school); information describing the program’s evaluation; a brief summary of available evidence supporting the validity of the program; resources (who or where to go for more information); and background reading (articles, reports and websites that are easily accessible). In addition, Appendix E contains an extensive Reference List for each tool.
The Companion White Paper
At the same time that work on the Tools got underway, NASDSE and NDRN jointly asked Kevin Dwyer, past president of the National Association of School Psychologists, to draft the white paper, the first part of the Shared Agenda, which would lay out the issues that prompted the Shared Agenda work. This component of the project is in its final stages of completion and will be ready in the very near future. It will be posted on-line alongside of this Tools document.
As noted above, a white paper that discusses the issues related to the soaring population of students with disabilities in the juvenile justice system will soon be posted online to accompany these Tools. For now, the documents will only be available online, but NDRN and NASDSE are seeking funding to publish the documents and to undertake a training initiative related to the use of the Tools. Please watch this website for future updates.
To download a copy of Tools for Success, click here.
The tools are also available on the following website: http://www.edjj.org/focus/prevention/JJ-SE.htm