City of Arcata Takes a Look at Measure Z-Funded Juvenile Diversion Progam
This is a press release from the City of Arcata:
Arcata, CA – In October 2016, the Arcata Police Department re-implemented a Juvenile Diversion Program in partnership with Northern Humboldt Unified School District, all made possible with Humboldt County Measure Z funding. The current program provides services to at-risk students and their families with help from two Juvenile Diversion Counselors (JDCs) and one School Resource Officer (SRO) that directly serve inside Northern Humboldt County Schools.
The long-term goals of the Juvenile Diversion Program are to reduce juvenile crime in Northern Humboldt County by 50%, and to reduce the number of high school students who transfer to continuation schools or dropout by 50%. Current program statistics show that the Juvenile Diversion team is committed to reaching those goals.
Since the program was restored in October 2016, Juvenile Diversion Counselors, Cedric Aaron, Jr. and Crystal Perez, have served 169 middle & high school students, with 48 cases being law enforcement referrals that would have otherwise entered the juvenile justice system.
“Sometimes people assume we’re in schools to lock kids up and give them severe consequences,” said counselor Cedric Aaron, Jr. “Our job is actually the opposite. We’re there to listen & offer support and services to the students and their families to prevent these kids from entering the system or dropping out of school.”
In the 2015-2016 school year, 89% of APD juvenile cases in Northern Humboldt County schools were remanded to court or probation. Since the Juvenile Diversion Program was reinstated in the 2016-2017 school year, that number dropped to 41%, with 49% of juvenile cases being handled within the Arcata Police Department – without juvenile court or probation involvement. SRO, Victoria Marr, helped refer at-risk students to the JDCs for support services that prevented them from entering juvenile courts. In addition, Northern Humboldt Unified High School District has seen a 20% decrease in continuation school enrollment.
Of their progress, Cedric said, “It’s great to watch students identify and make positive progress toward their goals, and to be able to give them praise when their hard work pays off. It’s also rewarding to hear feedback from parents on how Crystal and I have been able to reestablish healthy communication and build positive relationships within their families.”
“In our first year, Cedric and I had a handful of kids who were not coming home or going to school. We worked with them, and now we see them on campus and they say hi and tell us how they’re doing in class,” said Juvenile
Diversion Counselor Crystal Perez. “The other day a father thanked me and said, ‘It’s really nice to have so much support, we’ve never had that before.”
Thanks to Measure Z funding, the creation of this program has made a difference in the lives of at-risk students and their families, but also for school faculty in Northern Humboldt County.
“I have worked in the Arcata School District for 30 years, and I am so grateful to the City of Arcata and to the Arcata Police Department for recognizing the importance and value of this program. During the gap years, when there wasn’t a diversion program, it was deeply felt. Early intervention was much more difficult,” said Lynda Yeoman, Principal at Sunny Brae Middle School.
“It has been refreshing and rewarding working with Cedric and Crystal at Arcata High School,” said Mark Sahlberg, Arcata High School Dean of Students. “Both counselors have made positive connections with students to help direct them on the path to success in school and life. It is encouraging to know that our students are getting quality counseling and guidance at this point in their young lives.”
“The Juvenile Diversion Program, including the counselors and SRO accessible to McKinleyville Middle School via Measure Z funding, has been invaluable to students, families and school staff. Just the existence of the program allows our staff to encourage community members to reach out for law enforcement help with troubled youth because we can assure them that rather than be haunted by a record, a citation or referral will allow for meaningful help to both struggling youth and their families. Parents and guardians of youth who make missteps have access to trained professionals who can support them: guiding them onto, or back onto, a productive path. Students find neutral allies who listen, and link them with needed resources. From a school administrator’s perspective, there is nothing that could replace this effective program. I hope community and law enforcement support of the diversion program continues, and that we can increase it in the K-8 schools where there continues to be a need,”” said Jennifer Nichols, Director of Student Services at McKinleyville Middle School, of the program.
In addition, the program offers an 11-week Parent Project course for parents and guardians who want help improving their child’s school attendance and performance. The course also offers tips on drug use prevention, advice on preventing gang involvement and provides contacts to local resources that offer additional support. The Spring 2018 Arcata session is currently underway, and the next session will begin on Tuesday, March 20 from 5:30-8:30pm at the Lincoln Learning Center located at 216 W. Harris in Eureka. There is no fee for this course, and classes run once a week for an 11-week period. Child care and a teen study area will be provided at the New Marshall Family Resource Center for parents and guardians in need.
For more information on the Arcata Police Department’s Juvenile Diversion program, or to inquire about Parent Project courses, call 707-825-2585.