LA Unified is unveiling a new program today, one directed at a small group of students with exceptional needs: those returning to schools from juvenile justice programs.
Designed to serve students from probation camps, juvenile halls and residential situations, the program aims at helping them mount a successful return to school, with a special emphasis on attendance, academic achievement, graduation rates and the prevention of recidivism.
“Our goal is to make sure every LA Unified student graduates and is ready to go on to a college career or the workforce,” said Lydia Ramos, the district spokeswoman. “That means every student. If we don’t help them, they will end up in the prison system, so either we help them as a student now, or the state deals with them later.”
In a presentation prepared for a board committee meeting today, Debra Duardo, executive director of the district’s Student Heath and Human Services division, says that 180 “juvenile offenders” are returned home from a detention facility each month, two-thirds of them living within the LA Unified school district.
Last month, as an example, the district found that 159 LA Unified students were in justice programs, and they ranged from age 11 to 28.
These students require added attention for the social and educational disruptions they’ve experienced by virtue of their own behavior.
As a result, Duardo says, the district is appointing three sets of monitors to ease the transition. They include counselors assigned to students in detention, counselors assigned to guide each student’s return to a school site, and “aftercare” counselors to monitor attendance, behavior and academic performance.