Crisis Management: “Parallel Worlds: The Intersection between Schools and the Juvenile Delinquency System”
By Clint Campion of Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans & Filippi, LLC
Part six of a series on interacting with the world outside of the schoolhouse gates.
A star student athlete is accused of sexually assaulting another high school student at a party. The school and the community are divided: some want him to be suspended from the team and from school and some do not believe the allegations are true. How does a school official resolve this division?
First, the school official contacts the local police department to ensure that the school has met its mandatory reporting obligations under AS 47.17 and board policy. The school official discusses the investigation with the local police chief and learns that the investigation has been referred to the juvenile probation office for potential charges.
Next, the school official contacts the assigned juvenile probation officer who advises that she is working with a prosecutor to determine whether the student will be charged as a juvenile delinquent. The probation officer tells the school official that she does not know when the decision will be made whether to charge the student as a juvenile.
The juvenile probation officer also tells the school official that if the student is charged, he would likely be required to remain enrolled in school and would most likely not be detained at a youth facility. She also tells the school official that the entire process is likely to take up to a year to get resolved.
The school official is in a Catch-22 situation. The school official cannot wait for a year for the juvenile delinquency system to determine whether to suspend the student, but board policies require school officials to promptly investigate these types of incidents to reasonably ensure the safety of students and staff.
The school system and the juvenile delinquency system are parallel worlds with common goals and responsibilities. The juvenile delinquency system is responsible for all prosecutions of minors under 18 years of age for violating the criminal laws of Alaska. AS 47.12.020. The mission of the juvenile delinquency system is to hold juvenile offenders accountable and to protect the safety of victims and communities but also to provide juvenile offenders with the skills necessary to live responsibly and productively. AS 47.12.010.
Juvenile delinquency records generally may not be disclosed, but school officials are entitled to information that is necessary to protect the safety of students and staff and to help the school provide counseling and supportive services to the student. School officials need to understand that the information it receives may not be shared with the school or the community. AS 47.12.310(b).
School officials should be aware that some students may be charged as adults. For example, students who are 16 years of age or older who commit certain serious offenses, including certain sexual offenses, could be charged as adults. AS 47.12.030. Students under the age of 16 may also be considered for prosecution as adults only in the most egregious circumstances. AS 47.12.100.
Alaska does not have a minimum age for juvenile delinquency proceedings, but school officials should not expect students 13 years or younger to be formally dealt with by the juvenile delinquency system. However, school officials should consider referring allegations against younger students to the Division of Juvenile Justice for potential informal referrals.
The school official should understand the intersection between the parallel worlds of schools and the juvenile delinquency system. The school official cannot wait for the juvenile delinquency system to dictate the outcome of the student disciplinary process. While the juvenile delinquency process plays out, the school official is entitled to receive information necessary to ensure the safety of students and staff. The school official is obligated to investigate the allegations to ensure the safety of students and to evaluate potential discipline, including suspension, of the student athlete.
Read the entire series on Interacting with the Outside World – School District Style:
Part one: Panic is not a Plan – Crisis Communications for School Districts by Clint Campion
Part two: Crisis Management: The Case of the Bickering Parents by Lea Filippi
Part three: Crisis Management: The Case of the Aggressive OCS Investigator by Allen Clendaniel
Part four: Crisis Management: “Shaken – Not Stirred …The Day the Open Meetings Act Collided with a 7.0 Earthquake” by John Sedor
Part five: Crisis Management: The Case of the Ominous Essay by Lea Filippi
More from Sedor, Wendlandt, Evans & Filippi, LLC:
Five-part series: Union Issues in Schools
Four-part series: Freedom of Expression in Schools
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The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Association of Alaska School Boards. AASB welcomes diverse perspectives and civil discourse. To submit a Guest Column for consideration, see our Guest Column Guidelines and email your 400-1000 word submission HERE.