Sunday, November 27, 2011

Birmingham Collaborative Agreement

Children with learning disabilities often have mild to severe behavioral problems that surface at school. These problems can be compounded when the child is the subject of bullying and intimidation by peers. Such children may resort to verbal and physical fighting as a way to protect themselves.

Schools have internal policies on handling fighting and other minor infractions by children. Despite this, schools often call on the police and the juvenile courts for assistance before following internal procedures. Juvenile court involvement can have long-term, negative consequences on a child and can result in the youth spending time in a detention facility away from family and away from needed educational services.

In an effort to address the premature referral of children for juvenile court discipline, the Collaborative Agreement was developed. The Collaborative Agreement is a contract between Birmingham City Schools, the Birmingham Police, and Jefferson County Family Court. The Agreement spells out the formal procedures that must be followed before a school may make a referral for court intervention. The Agreement provides for a graduated response that includes warnings and participation by the student and family in conflict resolution education. Only in instances where school intervention has failed, and the child continues to repeat the problem behavior, may the school resort to juvenile court intervention.

Despite the existence of this Agreement, some Birmingham schools continue to refer children to juvenile court. In these instances, advocates for the child should argue for dismissal of the case based on breach of the Collaborative Agreement. Such dismissal is called for when juvenile court involvement is premature and when court involvement could interfere with the child’s education and ability to participate in special educational services.

Click on the following links for the full text of the Collaborative Agreement and for more information about this important contract: Collaborative Agreement Full Text; Purpose Behind the Collaborative Agreement.

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