Juvenile Law Center

Child Welfare and Foster Care|Juvenile and Criminal Justice

Access to Quality Education

Just like other kids, youth in the juvenile justice system need a quality education so that they can develop the skills they need to become successful adults. Sadly, system-involved youth are chronically behind in school,1 and studies show that nationally as many as two-thirds of youth dropped out of school after release from the system.2

Schools in juvenile facilities often fail to provide a high quality education. Although all students want to learn, U.S. Department of Education data shows that most youth in juvenile justice facilities made no meaningful progress in learning or academic achievement.3

Juvenile Law Center works to ensure youth in the justice system stay on track to graduate from high school and are able to attend post-secondary education or training programs. We work at the federal and state levels to enforce existing special education rights as well as advance policies that promote access to high quality academic, career, and technical training in juvenile correctional facilities.

Juvenile Law Center is a partner in the Legal Center for Youth Justice and Education. This new Legal Center is a national collaboration of Southern Poverty Law Center, Juvenile Law Center, Education Law Center-PA, and the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law. The Legal Center’s mission is to ensure that all children in and returning from the juvenile and criminal justice systems can access their right to a quality education. We connect juvenile justice and education professionals, highlight innovative model litigation strategies, and work to reshape federal, state, and local policies. We created the Blueprint for Change: Education Success for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System, an interactive online tool that sets forth a broad framework for promoting education success for young people involved in the juvenile justice system and presents examples of programs, legislation, resources, policies, and practices that exist to further this goal.

In collaboration with partner organizations, Juvenile Law Center engages in vigorous advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels. In 2013, with support from the MacArthur Foundation, Juvenile Law Center worked with partners to convene over 100 key stakeholders nationwide in a series of regional listening sessions. Based on those sessions, we and our partners drafted Recommendations to Improve Correctional and Reentry Education for Young People.

We continue to advocate for federal administrative and legislative changes to improve access to education for youth in the juvenile justice system, including sharing the experiences and recommendations of our youth advocates in Juveniles for Justice. Many of our recommendations were reflected in the Correctional Education Guidance Package released by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice in December, 2014 and in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law in December, 2015.

More resources:

1 Southern Education Foundation, Just Learning: The Imperative to Transform Juvenile Justice Systems into Effective Educational Systems—A Study of Juvenile justice Schools in the South and the Nation 14 (2014), http://www.southerneducation.org/getattachment/b80f7aad-405d-4eed-a966-8... (2/3 of juveniles entering state institutions were below grade level in math and reading and 44% entering local juvenile justice facilities were below grade level in math and reading).
Id. at 18 (citing Joseph C. Gagnon, Brian R. Barber, Christopher L Van Loan, and Peter E. Leone, “Juvenile Correctional Schools: Characteristics and Approaches to Curriculum,” Education and Treatment of Children, Vol. 32, no. 4, 673-696, 2009; Joseph C. Gagnon, “State-Level Curricular, Assessment, and Accountability Policies, Practices, and Philosophies for Exclusionary School Settings,” The Journal of Special Education, vol. 43,No. 4, 206-219, February 2010; Joseph C. Gagnon, Christopher L Van Loan, and Brian R. Barber, “Secondary Psychiatric Schools: Characteristics and Approaches to Curriculum,” Preventing School Failure, Vol. 55. No.1, 42-52, 2010; Joseph C. Gagnon and Brian Barber, “Characteristics of and Services Provided to Youth in Secure Care Facilities,” Behavioral Disorders, vol. 36, no. 1, 7-19, November 2010.)
3 Just Learning at 15-17. 


Last updated: 11/16/2015

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