Juvenile Law Center

Child Welfare and Foster Care|Juvenile and Criminal Justice

Community and School Re-Entry

Few states adequately prepare youth returning from juvenile justice facilities for re-entry into their communities. Many justice-involved youth struggle to return to school and too many never receive a high school diploma. Systemic barriers to transferring school records and academic credits further deter youth from pursuing an education. Additionally, many school systems push youth returning from juvenile justice placements into inferior alternative education programs. Studies show that nationally, as many as two-thirds of youth drop out of school after being involved in the juvenile justice system.1

Juvenile Law Center promotes policies to ensure that youth leaving juvenile facilities are swiftly re-enrolled in an appropriate school; stay on track to graduate; and pursue postsecondary education, training, and employment opportunities.

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, which we presented to federal agencies.

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 the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law in December, 2015.


More resources:


S. Educ. Found., 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 18 (2014), available at http://www.southerneducation.org/getattachment/cf39e156-5992-4050-bd03-fb34cc5bf7e3/Just-Learning.aspx (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.).

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