School Referrals

Section 4.4

State and Local Policymakers and Advocates Should Prohibit Schools from Referring Youth who Engage in Status Offense Behaviors to Court unless and until the School has made all Reasonable Efforts to Avoid Court Involvement

Of the 142,300 status offense cases formally adjudicated in U.S. juvenile courts in 2009, 37 percent were for truancy.1 Limiting schools’ ability to refer status offense behaviors to the court, especially truancy, will dramatically reduce juvenile court case loads and the likelihood that non-offenders become subject to juvenile court sanctions.

Increasingly, states are requiring schools to demonstrate that they have tried various interventions prior to filing a truancy petition, but what is required varies by state. In Section 2.5 there is a discussion of policies and processes schools can implement to help identify child and family needs and better address truancy problems within the school system rather than referring children and families to court.  Such school approaches may include:

  • Assessing the child to identify the underlying causes of the behavior.
  • Meeting with the child and family to identify challenges and make appropriate service or community-based referrals.
  • Creating an individualized plan with the child and family, which includes non-punitive measures and meaningful family engagement.
  • Monitoring and following up with the child and family to assure needed services are being implemented.

1 Puzzanchera, C., Adams, B., & Sarah Hockenberry (2012). Juvenile Court Statistics 2009. Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice.