Representatives from the education community shared their thoughts with a legislative committee on schools and the juvenile justice system.
ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany, Large School Group Representative Dianna Miller and SASD Executive Director Rob Monson discussed the issues schools are facing when dealing with juvenile offenders and potential solutions with the Senate Judiciary committee on Tuesday (1/17).
The Juvenile Justice system was subject to an interim study in 2022 that resulted in a few bill proposals being brought forward with Pogany telling committee members the interim study group deserves “a lot of credit” for taking up the issue and presenting some solutions as the “issue is huge.”
One proposed solution was Senate Bill 4, which allows a court the option to commit a juvenile who has been adjudicated of three separate criminal acts in a six-month period to the Department of Corrections. Pogany said he’d like “at least a year” to be considered for the timeline in the bill because in “the most severe cases” of juvenile offenders schools don’t have the “resources to help those kids.”
In addition, Pogany suggested other possible solutions including a review of the JDAI Assessment statute and amendment to state law to include school personnel to the statute penalizing an offender who assaults certain public service employees and healthcare workers.
Monson shared with committee members “truancy in South Dakota is a very serious matter” and changes made in 2021 to the alternative instruction laws have made it more difficult for public schools to know which students they may need to investigate for being truant.
He suggested an amendment be put in state law clarifying “the (public) school is no longer responsible” to investigate truancy if the student is receiving alternative instruction.
Miller said finding solutions for the juvenile justice system is “all about partnering” between schools, communities, agencies and the legislature. She noted all parties “need to push and encourage” the development of community-resource teams in all circuit court systems.
“We need a program whereby all the communities are considered,” Miller shared with committee members, adding the implementation is a “multi-year issue” that needs to be developed to deal with all sized school districts.
Senate Bill 6, which authorizes community response teams to recommend community-based resources for alleged juvenile delinquents, was suggested by the interim Committee on Juvenile Justice and has already passed the Senate and is on its way to the House.
Miller said schools and their representatives are “in it for the long haul” in terms of juvenile justice reforms and the goal is “not to lock kids up.”
“We truly believe every child is worth saving and we need to work towards that,” Miller said.