ROANOKE (WSLS 10) – Police in the Commonwealth want to prevent more juveniles from becoming prisoners. It was a discussion topic at the Virginia Association of Police Chiefs Conference in Roanoke. Educators and law enforcement agents from across Virginia are examining alternative approaches to discipline students.
“I think there are a lot of statistics out there that show students who are not involved with school get involved with crime and other negative things” said Bob Talley, Director of Student Conduct at Chesterfield County Schools.
Ann Atkinson, who heads Policy Works, an organization educating officers and school administrators about roles and responsibilities of each side, was a speaker at the conference. She said officials must focus on resolving problems instead of referring kids to courts.
“Law enforcement focuses on enforcing law, schools can focus on the disciplinary aspect so law enforcement avoids becoming the school disciplinarian,” said Ann Atkinson, Policy Works.
Statewide and locally the number of juveniles entering detention centers has dropped, according to the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice.
According to the Roanoke Valley Juvenile Detention Center (RVDC), last fiscal year, RVDC averaged roughly 25 kids a day. Officials said that is a significant decrease from 2000 when the average was higher than 65 kids a day.
While progress was made, challenges such as mental health problems remain.
Juvenile Justice leasers said it will take a collaborative effort and better understanding of student behavior for intake numbers to continues to decline.
Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice Intake Information: http://www.djj.virginia.gov/pdf/about-djj/DRG/FY2015_DRG.pdf