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January 25, 1999

Governor and Attorney General Call for Juvenile Court Liaisons in Iowa Schools

Governor Vilsack and Attorney General Miller Call for
Juvenile Court Liaisons in Iowa Schools to fight
Delinquency and Improve Learning

Office of the Governor of Iowa
Governor Tom Vilsack
Lt. Governor Sally Pederson

Iowa Department of Justice
Attorney General Tom Miller

Release: On receipt, Monday, January 25, 1999
Contact: Governor's Office: Aida Amoura, 515-281-0173
Attorney General's Office: Bob Brammer or Bill Roach, 515-281-5536.


Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Tom Miller today announced a plan to expand the use of school-based Juvenile Court Liaisons in Iowa junior high and middle schools to work with delinquent and disruptive youth to fight delinquency and improve learning for all students.

Governor Vilsack said: "We propose to provide a safer learning environment for our schools by increasing the number of juvenile court liaisons. These liaisons work with delinquent and disruptive students, but, most important, they help to prevent children from becoming delinquent who are considered at risk. The liaisons work in conjunction with probation officers to get troubled kids back on their feet."

Governor Vilsack said his January 28 budget recommendation to the legislature will include a proposal to increase the Juvenile Court Liaison program by $2 million, for a total of $3.5 million for the program. This would increase the number of schools with Juvenile Court Liaisons from 107 to 183. "Over time, I hope that the Juvenile Court and local schools will have the ability to place a school-based Juvenile Court Liaison in every junior high and middle school in Iowa that wishes to use the program," Vilsack said.

Miller said: "The Liaisons work in schools through cooperative arrangements between the schools and the Juvenile Court. They supervise students who are on probation to the Juvenile Court and work with individual youth who have been identified as at risk. They also work to reduce truancy and respond to disruptive classroom behavior, so all kids can learn better," he said.

Governor Vilsack said: "It is critical that we ensure a safe environment for our children to learn in. Iowa students should be worrying about their next math test, not about weapons and drugs in their classrooms. Iowa parents should feel secure that our schools are a safe place to learn."

Miller said he is especially eager to see Liaisons work with delinquent and at-risk youth after school to prevent delinquency during the high crime hours after school. "The time after school is prime time for juvenile crime," he said. The Attorney General cited a recent federal study of eight states, including Iowa, showing that the peak hours for juvenile crime are from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and that 3:00 p.m. is the most dangerous hour of the day for juvenile crime.

"Sending delinquent and at-risk youth out of the schools in the middle of the afternoon without adult supervision or constructive activities is a recipe for bad decisions," Miller said. "These youth are more likely to engage in criminal activities such as assaults and vandalism, but they also are at much higher risk of personally destructive behavior such as pregnancy and drug or alcohol abuse," he said.

"Great things can happen when schools and the Juvenile Court work together," Miller said. "Schools are the best place for the Juvenile Court to reach youth. And the presence of the Juvenile Court Liaison in the school helps ensure a safe environment, free of interruptions, where students can learn. In many schools, the Juvenile Court Liaison will be the catalyst that brings the schools, Juvenile Court and law enforcement together in a cooperative relationship. When they all work together, they create new ways of thinking about issues and solutions. There are two important results: learning goes up and juvenile crime goes down. All students benefit."

"My office co-hosts a conference each year for all the state's Juvenile Court Liaisons," Miller said. "We have learned that these school-based Liaisons succeed because they work intensively with delinquent and at-risk youth. The Liaisons see delinquent and at-risk youth every day and get to know their schools, neighborhoods and family environments. This frequency and intensity is key to success."

Gov. Vilsack said the school liaison program dovetails with his other efforts to bolster education. "Moms and dads want to be confident that their children are safe and teachers are able to instill discipline in their classrooms," he said. "We are tackling this problem on two fronts -- working to reduce elementary class sizes so teachers can work with a manageable number of students, and supporting the liaison program which targets prevention and works to hinder children from becoming disruptive in the future."

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