“Children are no longer receiving traditional disciplinary measures, such as counseling or detention, but instead are being suspended, expelled or facing law enforcement intervention,” Fulton County Juvenile Justice Center Probation Chief Adolphus Graves told a recent forum hosted by the Strengthening Families and Community Coalition of Atlanta (SFCC).
“Children are being arrested or removed from schools,” he said, “even for minor infractions, at alarming rates around the country.”
The one-day seminar examined “Juvenile Justice Codes” that widely affect youth today and explored active steps to “secure the educational pipeline” by diverting and disrupting the “school to prison pipeline.”
The presentation came to a powerful conclusion when a young man named Daquavious recounted his personal struggle in school with gang recruitment, academic troubles, and lack of consistent support from community members. He then spoke of an intervention program that taught him skills and techniques for continuing his self-development that quite literally changed his life. No longer a victim of the “school to prison pipeline,” Daquavious is a success story that can and should be emulated through effective school interventions.
Following the seminar and call to action, SFCC Atlanta and its partners adopted Brown Middle School in the West End Community of Atlanta as its central location to work toward collective impact in the Atlanta area.
“We are supporting an on-site Opportunity Center which serves as a place of reprieve for students experiencing in-class concerns that would otherwise lead to their dismissal from school.”
At an earlier November 2014 meeting, SFCC Atlanta had received a plea for support from Brown Middle School Graduation Coach Justin Crowder. Although the school has consistently scored well on all system-wide standardized tests and has a caring and effective Principal, Mrs. Tiauna Crooms, the school and surrounding community are plagued with poverty, drugs, and gang violence.
The agreement on April 16 supported a collective impact model to extend wrap-around services including addressing truancy, mentorship, student ambassador initiatives and the support for development of overall positive school culture.
“We are supporting an on-site Opportunity Center which serves as a place of reprieve for students experiencing in-class concerns that would otherwise lead to their dismissal from school,” said Ms. Gwendolyn Sands, founder of Visions Unlimited and Chair of the Brown Middle School project for SFCC Atlanta. “The Center will also serve as a hub for student based services such as tutorials, character development and life skills training.”
This agreement, the first by SFCC to receive a funding grant, will be implemented through a pilot program for the remainder of the 2014-15 academic year and continue in the 2015-16 academic year.
Global Peace Foundation USA is an organizing partner of Strengthening Families and Communities Coalition, which is active in six states and the District of Columbia.