The objectives of the education of minors are no different inside an establishment than outside
The school year is off to a good start with the challenges of the pandemic and in-person learning versus distance learning.
Young people entering the state’s juvenile justice system also attend classes that are like any classroom outside of a juvenile justice facility. Classes are difficult and follow North Carolina standards regardless of the minor’s learning level. Highly qualified staff assess each youngster for their level of knowledge and are available to provide personalized instruction.
In the 2019-2020 school year, 19 students graduated from high school while residing in a state-run youth development center or detention center. Overall, 267 students earned high school credits in juvenile justice institutions, as the state’s Ministry of Education recognizes juvenile justice as a local education agency.
“We have licensed teachers at all schools, and they are expected to meet state and federal mandates, including the provision of special education services,” said director of juvenile education services Adam Johnson. “Our teachers are trained to teach in college, high school, high school equivalency, vocational training or post-secondary education. Our classrooms are made up of multi-age, multi-ability students, so our teachers must be able to differentiate their teaching to meet the wide range of student needs.
All students are assessed according to their grade level and grade level. Juvenile Justice also contacts the school in the youth’s home county for records, including any Individualized Education Program (IEP) that may be in place, designed to meet the needs of the student.
“JJ will meet with the parent and juvenile justice educational compliance specialist and update the IEP in the new framework,” said Danielle Woolard, education specialist at the Pitt Juvenile Detention Center in Greenville. “The student accommodation will always be in place and we will always keep it. We rarely have to change the whole IEP. If necessary, we can contact the school and find out what to watch out for. ”
Johnson said: “The majority of children come to us undercredited and significantly behind in literacy and math. Most are at least two grade levels below where they should be. Our teachers are responsible for helping students achieve grade level standards. We offer students the opportunity to acquire skills essential to their success beyond the walls of our facilities. “
Working on success skills can be difficult in a youth development center or juvenile detention center. There are no separate classrooms for different levels, nor separate teachers for each level. While the total number of teachers to be taught in a school is relatively small, the challenge of teaching at different levels of learning is great.
“They demand no less than a student in a ‘real’ school,” Woolard said. “I want everyone to receive the same quality of education as outside of this establishment. It’s sad that’s where they are. I’m doing my best to change their mindset.
“These are not kids in my class. They are students. The school happens to be in a detention center. It is no different here than at any other school I have taught in 15 years of study. It’s their little pit stop and then they’ll be leaving from here. I don’t treat them any differently.
Academic success may depend on the time the minor spends in an establishment. Youth placed in a juvenile detention center tend to spend less time in an institution than those assigned to a youth development center. Most of the students who graduate or get their high school equivalency are YDC youth, but that’s not always the case.
Last school year, a youngster who spent four years at Pitt JDC obtained his high school equivalency through a partnership with Pitt Community College. The pandemic prevented the community college from setting foot in the institution, which meant it had to send working papers to the institution for the student. Woolard said this miner had spent enough time at the facility to complete the entire program and graduate.
“The children come here and they only have free time,” she said. “Most of the time, they’re not here long enough to take a GED program. Some of these children have not been to school for some time. I contacted Pitt Community College to see if there was a way to work with him. They do it for adults in prison, why not for minors?
“They took a chance on us. We were building an airplane while we were flying. We learned a lot from this young man and Pitt was awesome. I was her one-on-one GED teacher at school. The staff helped him when he needed it. It’s been a long road, but he passed all the tests on the first try. I don’t know what will happen when he leaves here, but now he’s got something he’s won. No one can take that away from him. I know he is interested in an associate degree and has taken the first step.
Many young people have had a bad educational experience growing up and it is up to the school educators to remove the stigma that school is bad.
“You want to give them confidence that they can do it,” said Dr Eric Barnes of Lenoir YDC, the 2021 Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year. “We are working to determine what their gifts and abilities are. They were probably told that they could not read well or that they were bad. We need to build a relationship and show the student that you care. You do this, they will work without and eventually come out of their shells. It is very rewarding.