Advocates Say Schools in Juvenile Detention Facilities are Failing Kids

CINCINNATI – Learning can be difficult under the best of circumstances. But for those young people inside the nation’s youth detention centers, the barriers to learning can be enormous indeed. This was just one of the messages that came out of a panel discussion at a conference in Cincinnati today sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund, the first such large-scale meeting of the child advocacy organization in a decade. The panel, Meeting the Educational Needs of Children in the Juvenile Justice System: Challenges and Opportunities, concentrated on highlighting problems and introducing ideas for reforming detention center school systems.

Panelists, including  David Sapp of  the American Civil Liberties Union, Lia Venchi, a teacher at a school for youth in detention and David Domenici, a member of the See Forever Foundation, said most of the reforms implemented in schools within juvenile justice facilities have been forced as a result of litigation or administrative complaints, making public attention the biggest force for change in what are usually highly secretive environments. The children who attend school in juvenile justice detention facilities have much higher needs than those in the general population, the panelists said.