On September 30, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2276 (Bocanegra), a bill that addresses the reenrollment rights of juvenile justice youth, in particular, those who are reentering from a juvenile court school.
There is strong evidence that juvenile justice youth in California often have difficulty re-enrolling in school once released from detention. California’s juvenile court schools have one of the highest dropout rates in the state at 52.2%. In a recent report to the State Legislature, the California Department of Education revealed that of the 60,097 juvenile detention youth served by programs funded under the state’s Neglected or Delinquent program, only 12,442 (or 21%) “enrolled in their local district school” within 30 calendar days after exit from the facility. The youth most impacted by the failure to ensure subsequent enrollment in school are youth of color, primarily Black and Latino students. These two groups comprised 81% of the total student enrollment in California’s juvenile court school system during 2013-14.
AB 2276 helps facilitate the successful transition of juvenile justice youth from the court school system back to a regular school placement by doing the following:
a) Requires that youth who have had contact with the juvenile justice system be immediately enrolled in a public school.
b) Encourages school districts to enter into memoranda of understanding and create joint policies, systems, which include:
1) Data sharing systems, transition centers, and other structures that will allow for the immediate transfer of educational records;
2) Uniform systems for calculating and awarding course credit;
3) Systems that allow for the immediate enrollment of pupils transferring from juvenile court schools.
c) Requires County Offices of Education and Probation Departments to develop joint transition planning policies that include:
1) Collaboration with local school districts to improve communication regarding dates of release and the educational needs of juvenile justice youth;
2) Coordination for immediate school placement and enrollment;
3) Assurances that probation officers have the information they need to support the return of pupils who are transferred from juvenile court schools to regular schools.
d) If funding is budgeted, requires the convening of a statewide group with stakeholders to develop a model and study existing successful programs and policies for the immediate transfer of educational records, uniform systems for calculating and awarding credits, transition planning, and the immediate enrollment of students transferred from juvenile court schools.
The bill includes very good Legislative intent language that specifically recognizes the unique needs of juvenile justice youth; “The Legislature finds and declares . . . Pupils who have had contact with the juvenile justice system are often denied credit or partial credit earned during enrollment in juvenile court schools. Delays in school enrollment and loss of earned credit can result in improper class or school placement, denial of special education services, and school dropout.” The bill also confirms that juvenile justice youth are included in the Education Code’s definition of “Pupils in Foster Care” and therefore entitled to other enrollment protections.
The Youth Law Center co-sponsored and co-drafted AB 2276 with Public Counsel. We consider AB 2276 a companion bill to SB 1088, a bill signed into law in 2012 that prohibits a school district from denying enrollment or readmission to a student “solely on the basis that he or she has had contact with the juvenile justice system.”