Local advocates are hoping to fight the trend of troubled juveniles and keep younger generations out of trouble sooner rather than later. But to keep children from ever going before a juvenile justice judge, experts say correcting a pattern of behavior has to start as early as pre-school.
Research shows pre-schoolers in Nevada are being expelled at alarming rates. A crowd of educators and juvenile justice system professionals listened Thursday closely as doctor Walter Gilliam went over shocking statistics about pre-kindergarten expulsions.
He’s a professor of child psychiatry and psychology at Yale University.
“You’re talking about kicking a child out for good, permanently, at three years old, four years old. They’re just babies,” Dr. Gilliam said.
Nevada is near the top of the list with an average of seven-to-ten expulsions for every one-thousand pre-schoolers.
Karen Castro, reporter: “Were you aware of that?”
Tammy Malich, Assistant Superintendent of CCSD: “I was not aware of that.”
Malich is in charge of the education services division and says there are about 500 Pre-k programs in the school district with about 12,000 students.
“It’s surprising and alarming to me to think about the fact that pre-schoolers are being expelled,” Malich said.
She believes removing kids from school doesn’t help the problem.
“If we really want to make an impact we need to change the behavior because those kids are out in the community when they’re not in school and they’re going to grow up and be out in the community,” Malich said.
The goal is to keep them out of the juvenile justice system.
“Last year we had 13,400 unique citations to our department, about 9,000 individual children were referred to our system,” said Jack Martin, the director of the Clark County Dept. of Juvenile Justice Services.
Martin says the number of citations is down significantly compared to 10-years ago, but there’s always room for improvement. In fact, the county’s Harbor Program will soon be open 24-hours a day.
The center provides help and resources for at-risk youth, and so far its success is in the numbers.
According to Martin, “2,700 families with only 100 kids escalate. That’s less than 4 percent failure rate. I’ll take those numbers all day long.”
The Harbor Program provides help for children 18 years old and younger. Their 24-hour services begin Feb. 10 at their new location near Mojave and Washington.