SALT LAKE CITY — The State Board of Education plans to ask lawmakers for additional resources to support educators' role in juvenile justice reforms passed by the Utah Legislature earlier this year.
HB239, sponsored by Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, made sweeping changes in how youth are treated in the state's juvenile justice system. The legislation, which passed with overwhelming support, seeks to change how juveniles are dealt with in the criminal justice system, while not jeopardizing public safety.
The statutory change emphasizes early intervention, and is focused on keeping low-risk youth offenders in their homes instead of detention centers.
It also introduces a "tiered response to school-based behavior," so students who are truant or commit other minor crimes are being handled by a team of crisis intervention professionals outside the court system.
However, the first line of contact is schools, and as the changes were implemented many school administrators were unaware what constituted low-level issues to be addressed at the school level or what community resources they could refer students to for help or guidance.
The issue was raised during a larger discussion Thursday by the State School Board on its requests for statutory changes in the upcoming legislative session.
While the juvenile justice system has responded to many concerns by providing referral lists and helping to clarify lower-level infractions or offenses to be addressed at the school level, there are few resources in rural and remote areas of the state.
So, the State School Board will ask lawmakers for additional resources to address this unaccustomed role, particularly in rural Utah, said Deputy State Superintendent Patty Norman on Thursday.1 comment on this story
There is also need for administrative training to learn how to access resources or appropriate roles for school administrators and school resource officers. One consideration is creating a coordinator position within the offices of the State Board of Education to help with referrals and act as a point person, she said.
"Rep. Snow has been absolutely amazing. We've gone to road trips across the entire state. It wasn't to convince people, instead it was to say 'What do you need to make this work? What resources have we not made available?'" Norman said.