|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
||For More Information, Contact:
|October 3 , 2005
||Coria Holland, Director of Communications
||617-727-5300, ext. 258
JUVENILE PROBATION OFFICERS ADDRESS TRUANCY
This fall, Probation Officers are working
with educators to solve truancy problems statewide by
maintaining a presence in the schools.
The failure to attend school is an early indicator of adult criminal behavior, according to national studies published by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education.
There is a Probation Officer assigned to almost every public school throughout the state. In Massachusetts, Probation Officers work closely with 26,119 children currently under probation supervision and/or who are court-involved in the 14 counties throughout the state.
Probation Officers are walking the school corridors and checking in on the court-involved students. Most schools have on-site office space for the Probation Officers. The Probation Officers also meet with school administrators, teachers and collaborate with the court liaison at the schools. There are a total of 1,872 public schools statewide.
Each of the county Juvenile Probation Departments, have a different approach to supervision in the schools.
Norfolk County Juvenile Chief Probation Officer Thomas Mitchell, commenting on this year’s approach, said “Probation Officers have attendance reports faxed directly to the probation office at the court so we know immediately who is not going to school.”
In Suffolk County, a Probation Officer is assigned to every public school in the area, according to Chief Probation Officer Steve Siciliano. “We maintain consistent contact with every school by visiting, calling and responding to the needs of the schools and students at any given moment. It is our intention to be an even more physical presence to increase attendance, deter crime and reduce school behavioral issues.”
Berkshire County Juvenile Chief Probation Officer William D. Gale said assigning Probation Officers to the schools sends a message. “By having the Probation Officers interact with their clients in the schools, we maintain our visibility in the community and our clients are put on notice that school attendance and good behavior are priorities for the judges that sit in Berkshire Juvenile Court,” Chief Gale said.
Barnstable County Juvenile Probation Officers help schools to maintain order and assist the schools in providing a safe learning environment, according to Acting Juvenile Chief Probation Officer John Millett. “Probation Officers not only help the kids in trouble, we assist children who are not going to school on a regular basis and children who have trouble obeying school rules and we develop a plan for each child to ensure compliance with judicial orders when the school departments bring a case to our attention.”
Bristol County Juvenile Probation Officers focus on truancy issues among children in middle school. Seven Probation Officers work with middle school children and their families to discourage truancy though a special program called CHIPS or the Children In Need of Services Intervention Program. “This program has a real impact on truancy,” said Joseph E. Hamilton, Bristol County Juvenile Chief Probation Officer.
Essex County Juvenile Probation Officers work with local school personnel in the classroom and lead discussions of the legal system. They also coordinate workshops to teach students life skills, according to Essex County Juvenile Chief Probation Officer Dan Passacantilli. The Court is the first in the area to establish a youth court, the Lawrence Youth Court, where selected students determine the fate of peers who break school rules. “Our Probation Officers also collaborate with the Supervisor of Attendance to identify students who are truant,” Passacantilli said.
Franklin/Hampshire County Juvenile Chief Probation Officer Edward A. Driscoll said the schools give them a window into the world of the children his Probation Officers supervise. “The schools are a very valuable resource as well as an area of collaboration for Probation Officers. The schools are where we can observe and collect important information on court-involved youth or those at risk of involvement in just one visit to a school,” Driscoll said. “The Probation Officers in this court are a daily presence in the schools and we are always at their disposal as a resource.”
The Plymouth County Juvenile Court Probation Department created a program, called Start Truancy Awareness Younger or STAY, which addresses truancy issues among children in the first, second and third grades, according to Chief Probation Officer Joel West. Plymouth Juvenile Probation has also established a program, Probation Assisting Successful School or PASS, which is aimed at high school students. “Each week, Probation Officer Jeffrey Foote, who is the brainchild of PASS, reviews students’ progress reports and assists students with making up missed assignments or completing homework.
Worcester County Juvenile Probation Officers also attempts to stop truancy before it starts by targeting first, second and third graders through its Elementary Intervention Program. Youngsters who are frequently late or absent from school are identified by school officials and they notify the court. Probation Officers work with the Department of Social Services (DSS) and a representative from the local Court Clinic. The Court Clinic provides court-involved youth and their families with referrals to needed services such as counseling.
“We try to work with the parents to determine the cause and assist them in changing this behavior. We help the parents find the resources they need to get their child to school on time. The Probation Department also encourages the parents to be more accountable. If the truancy persists, parents are brought before the court,” said Worcester County Juvenile Court Chief Probation Officer Francyne Lefemine.
In Middlesex County Juvenile Probation Officers work with school administrators, parents, teachers, counselors and children to “find common ground” in solving budding truancy problems, according to Chief Probation Officer Gil Sakakeeney. “Parents are relieved to know that the courts and the schools are willing to work together to support their efforts in helping to resolve adolescent issues before they become a problem. Schools are relieved to have the support of the court’s resources to assist them in their goal of educating all students in a safe and nurturing environment,” Sakakeeney said.
Hampden County Juvenile Chief Probation Officer Thomas Ginley said his Probation Officers work closely with police and representatives from the local schools and social service agencies to address school attendance issues. They also have a technological edge on monitoring truancy.
“Another means by which we verify attendance, behavior and academic achievement is our direct computer link to the Springfield School System. This enables probation officers to check on many probationers in a short period of time which is a wonderful case management tool,” said Ginley. “Good school attendance behavior and achievement are vital if our court-involved youth are to be successful. We take this very seriously and do our best to raise their level of participation and commitment as well.”