Friday, August 04, 2017

Congress deciding whether to ban, or almost ban, jailing truants, who are disproportionately rural

A bipartisan bill to change aspects of the juvenile-justice system passed the Senate Aug. 1 and now moves to a conference committee to mesh the bill with a similar one the House passed in May. The Senate bill would mostly prevent juveniles from being incarcerated for "status offenses," those that are only a violation for minors, such as skipping school or running away from home.  "The Coalition for Juvenile Justice noted that while the Senate bill would allow young people to be put into the juvenile-justice system for skipping school in certain circumstances, the House bill would eventually disallow the practice entirely," Ujifusa reports. Rural schools have the highest rates of chronic absenteeism, according to a Department of Education report. Here's a county-by-county map (click on it for a larger version):
Share of chronically absent students, as mapped by U.S. Department of Education
"The bill also puts a greater emphasis on screening and treatment for those with mental-health issues, retaining educational records of juveniles in detention centers, and ensuring that students in juvenile-justice centers get appropriate credit for academic work while they are in the juvenile-justice system," Andrew Ujifusa reports for Education Week. Both bills are a reauthorization and update of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, first passed in 1974 and reauthorized in 2002.

One of the Senate bill's sponsors, Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa, said the bill includes "important new accountability requirements that safeguard taxpayer dollars and prevent states from being rewarded when failing to provide the minimum standard of protections for minors." The other primary sponsor, Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, said the legislation "helps kids stay on track at school."

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