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  • Anna Patrick

The Importance of Collaboration Between the Judicial System and the School System

There are separate systems that involve high risk youth that work in silo and are shrouded in bureaucracy at multiple levels and often operate in parallel to one another. When people don't feel Justice in their communities, they often look to the systems in their communities that they feel leads to the injustice.  The information being presented from these systems to the public is often skewed, biased, misrepresented and lacking full transparency.

Collaboration between the judicial system and the school system is crucial for supporting and rehabilitating young people involved in the juvenile justice system and for prevention. In Washington State, several organizations work together to improve the juvenile justice system, while at the local school district level, collaborative efforts address diversions, behavior, discipline, and crime prevention. 

Understanding the Current Landscape:

In Washington State, several organizations collaborate to improve the juvenile justice system.

  • WA-PCJJ: They coordinate efforts and bring together different agencies and community members to address juvenile justice issues.

  • DCYF's OJJ: This office develops policies, programs, and services to support young people in the justice system.

  • OCI: They assist and support crime victims and advocate for improvements in the justice system.

  • WSCCR: They conduct research and analysis on court-related matters, including the juvenile justice system.

Recent data from a collaboration of these organizations reveals important insights, such as decreased juvenile arrests, concerns regarding disparities, a decrease in minor offenses, varying county rates, and a rise in serious crimes and these findings drive policy.


Separate organizations work collaboratively within the School System.

  • At the local school district level, collaboration involves school district administration, teachers' unions, PTAs, school boards, community-based organizations, and local government agencies.

Additionally, partnerships with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) further enhance educational outcomes and coordinate efforts. There appears to be some overlap with the juvenile justice system but it’s unclear how they work together within each system.

  • Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF): Addresses youth needs and coordinates education and DCYF services.

  • Washington State Center for Court Research (WSCCR): Conducts research on the intersection of judicial and education systems.

  • Educational Service Districts (ESDs): Provides support and resources for effective educational program implementation.

Importance of Collaboration:

A broader collaboration between separate systems is crucial when it comes to addressing the complex challenges at the intersection of the judicial system, school districts, and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Without effective collaboration, we face a range of issues that can hinder progress.

  • Inconsistent Treatment: Students may face different consequences depending on which system handles their misconduct.

  • Legal Compliance: Navigating legal complexities becomes difficult without collaboration.

  • Missed Support Opportunities: Crucial information and support services may be overlooked.

  • Fragmented Interventions: Coordinated efforts are necessary for addressing underlying issues effectively.

  • Duplication of Efforts: Resources may be inefficiently allocated without collaboration.

Benefits and Considerations of School District Diversion Programs:

When utilizing school district diversion programs, we can reap numerous benefits. These programs provide early intervention, promptly addressing student misconduct to prevent further escalation. They also offer tailored solutions, designed to meet the unique needs of the school community.

An essential focus of school district diversion programs is education. By emphasizing interventions that promote student success, these programs shift the focus from punishment to rehabilitation and learning. This approach reduces stigmatization, allowing students to thrive and grow from their mistakes.

Yet, it's crucial to consider certain aspects when implementing school district diversion programs. One consideration is the limited legal authority these programs have, particularly in handling serious offenses or enforcing compliance. Ensuring consistency and equity across schools is another challenge, as fair implementation must be maintained.

The impact of diverting cases within the school system on NIBRS crime reporting can vary:

  • Exclusion from NIBRS: Cases diverted within the school system may not be reported if they don't involve arrests or formal legal actions.

  • Data Integrity: Excluding diverted cases can affect the integrity and consistency of reported crime data.

  • Alternative Reporting: Some jurisdictions have mechanisms to capture diverted incidents within the school system.

  • Analytical Considerations: Researchers and policymakers should consider potential underreporting and missing data when analyzing NIBRS data.

A partnership with school resource officers within the school system can help ensure compliance with crime data reporting and bridge the complex systems and laws that are unique to both systems.


Issues with Not Reporting Crime Incidents:

  • Lack of Crime Data: Gaps in data hinder understanding and addressing crime prevalence.

  • Distorted Perception of Safety: Focusing on diversions and arrests may create a false sense of security.

  • Underrepresentation of Victims: Unreported incidents neglect victims' needs and perpetuate underreporting.

  • Incomplete Understanding of Criminal Behavior: Analyzing patterns and factors becomes challenging.

  • Equity and Bias Concerns: Biases and disparities may arise without comprehensive data.

  • Evaluation and Policy Development Limitations: Ineffective evaluation and policy-making result from incomplete data.

  • Grant Compliance.

Importance of Considering Diversions and Disabilities:

Specific disabilities do not cause delinquent behavior, but they can increase vulnerability. Addressing the needs of students with disabilities through appropriate interventions, support services, and educational accommodations is crucial for positive outcomes and preventing further involvement in the justice system. 

  • Various disabilities, such as learning disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders, intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and speech and language disorders, require specific attention.

When diverting youth with disabilities back into the general education system without coordination or additional funding, the following challenges and implications may arise:

  • Inadequate Support Services: Schools may struggle to provide necessary accommodation and specialized instruction for students with disabilities.

  • Limited Capacity and Resources: Existing resource constraints in schools may be further strained.

  • Inconsistent Implementation of IDEA: Without coordination, disparities may arise in the quality of services provided to diverted youth, resulting in inequitable access to educational supports.

  • Compliance Challenges: Schools may find it difficult to meet IDEA requirements, such as timely evaluations and appropriate placements, for diverted youth with disabilities.

When necessary, alternative learning environments can benefit diverted youth with disabilities:

  • Community-Based Programs: Flexible, supportive settings outside of traditional schools.

  • Therapeutic Schools: Specialized schools addressing emotional, behavioral, and academic needs.

  • Vocational Training Centers: Focused on practical skills and job training for future employment.

  • Online or Virtual Learning: Flexible and customized remote learning options.

  • Alternative Education Programs within Schools: Tailored programs offering smaller class sizes and individualized support.

The importance of threat assessments and the Becca law:

Threat assessments and the Becca Law play a vital role in promoting student safety and engagement. Together, they facilitate early identification of youth at risk and ensure a coordinated response from schools, law enforcement, and community organizations. By integrating both systems, we can address mental health, violence risks, truancy, and social factors affecting youth. The partnership streamlines referrals to support services, avoiding duplication of efforts. Sharing data and conducting evaluations collaboratively enables us to improve interventions and make informed decisions.


Collaboration between the judicial system and the school system is crucial for supporting young people involved in the juvenile justice system. By working together, these systems can provide comprehensive support, address disparities, promote equity, and facilitate positive student outcomes. Through partnerships, data sharing, coordinated interventions, and resource allocation, collaborative efforts contribute to a more just and supportive environment for young people.


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