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Frequent Marijuana Use Among Teens is Up

A joint. JJIE file photo. Ryan Schill / JJIE.orgHeavy marijuana use among teens has increased drastically in recent years, with nearly one in 10 sparking up 20 times or more each month, according to a new survey of young Americans released this morning.

The findings represent nearly an 80 percent increase in past-month heavy marijuana use among high school aged youth since 2008.

Overall, the rate of marijuana use among teens has increased. Past month marijuana users, or teens that have used marijuana in the month prior to the survey, increased 42 percent, to 27 percent of teens, compared to 2008 findings. Past-year and lifetime use also increased, but not as drastically, at 26 percent and 21 percent respectively.

Marijuana use has not been this widespread among American teens since 1998, when the past-month usage rate hovered around 27 percent, according the survey conducted by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and the MetLife Foundation.

“Heavy use of marijuana – particularly beginning in adolescence – brings the risk of serious problems and our data show it is linked to involvement with alcohol and other drugs as well,” Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, said in a press release. “Kids who begin using drugs or alcohol as teenagers are more likely to struggle with substance use disorders when compared to those who start using after the teenage years.”

The use of marijuana is becoming normalized among teens, too, according to the survey of 3,322 teen-aged students in grades 9-12 and 821 parents. Seventy-one percent of teens said they have friends who use the drug, up 64 percent from 2008, and only 26 percent agreed with the statement, “in my school, most teens don’t smoke marijuana.”

Still, while the number of teens who have used marijuana in their lifetime is on the rise, less than half of high school aged students have actually used the drug. The rate of teens who disapproved of their peer’s use of the drug remained unchanged since 2008, with more than 60 percent disapproving of the practice – and 41 percent who said they “strongly disapprove.”

Heavy users  are drastically more likely to use other drugs such as cocaine, Ecstasy and prescription drugs, compared to their peers who reported not using marijuana in the past year, the report found.

Teen boys, especially Hispanic males, have led the increase in the past year. Heavy usage by teen boys usage increased at nearly twice the rate of their female counterparts. Hispanic high school males are more likely to have used marijuana in the past year compared to their peers. Fifty percent reported using the drug in the past year, compared to 40 percent of black and 35 percent of white teens.

“The latest findings showing an increase in marijuana use among teens is unsettling and should serve as a wake-up call to everyone in a position to prevent unhealthy behavior,” said Dennis White, President and CEO of MetLife Foundation, who contributed to the report. “While it may be difficult to clearly understand just how dangerous marijuana use can be for teens, it is imperative that we all pay attention to the warning signs and intervene anyway we can.”

The findings are part of the 23rd annual Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, a yearly gauge of teens’ and parents’ attitudes toward issues that affect their lives.

 

Photo credit: Ryan Schill/JJIE

Commissioner Announces New Chairman to Head Georgia’s DJJ Board

Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice logo. Clay Duda/JJIEGeorgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Gale Buckner confirmed the Board’s election of Avery Niles to head the state’s DJJ Board. Niles fills the Chairman post formerly held by long-time Board member Ed Risler, who stepped down earlier this week following the expiration of his term last summer.

Niles, a 23-year veteran of the Hall County Sheriff’s Department and current warden of the Hall County Correctional Institution, was appointed to the Board by Gov. Deal in July 2011. As Chairman, Niles will “help guide Board Members as they serve in their advisory capacity to DJJ, providing leadership and counsel to the Commissioner to help improve Georgia’s juvenile justice system,” according to a DJJ release.

“I am honored to serve in this capacity,” Niles said. “I want to thank the Board for their confidence and I will work diligently to maintain their trust.”

Representing the 9th Congressional district, Niles will hold the position for at least the next two years, at which time he will be eligible for re-election by the Board.

The Board is made up of 15 members representing each of the Congressional districts around the state. Appointments are made by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate.

“The Georgia Juvenile Justice mission is to protect and serve the citizens of Georgia by holding young offenders accountable for their actions so they can become contributing members of society,” DJJ Commissioner Buckner said, congratulating Niles on the appointment. “We look forward to making real changes in the lives of our young offenders with help from a smooth transition of Board leadership ahead.”

A resident of Clermont, Ga., Niles is a graduate of Leadership Hall County, the Georgia Police Academy and the FBI National Academy. He serves as a deacon at Antioch Baptist Church and is currently pursuing a Bachelors degree in mortuary science while attending the Georgia law enforcement Command College in Columbus, Ga.

During the routine Board meeting on Thursday, Buckner also confirmed Gov. Deal’s appointments of two new members to the Board: Willie Bolton, representing the 10th Congressional District, and Frank Rozier from the 1st Congressional District.

Bolton fills the seat of former Chairman Ed Risler.

“We admire the professionalism Chairman Risler brought to this task,” Buckner said at the meeting, expressing appreciation for Risler’s more than 10-years of service on the Board. “And we wish all the best for our new appointees who are about to face the many challenges that lie ahead for the Department of Juvenile Justice.”

The Board seat for the 1st Congressional District was vacant before Rozier’s appointment.

Photo credit: Clay Duda/JJIE

The Best of JJIE in 2011

This holiday season, before you are reach for the eggnog, after you rip open the presents, when you’ve finished gearing up for visits from the family and friends, take a few minutes to look over some of the best work JJIE has generated this year.

Starting tomorrow and continuing throughout the week we are posting compelling pieces that ran in 2011. These stories are rich with details about some of the most important issues dealing with youth today, from homelessness, to drug abuse, to sexuality, to juvenile crime.

They are a sampling of our best work; which means they are not only well written, they get to the heart of what we do here at the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. They, in short, are stories of young people and the challenges, heartbreaks and joys they face every day.

We strive to bring you good journalism on meaningful topics. We’ve done that in the past and we’ll keep pushing it in the future.  And that begins next week, when you’ll read some frank and honest New Year’s resolutions from a group of teens in drug court. We all hope their resolutions are obvious.  But nothing in the lives of our young people is obvious.

So it is a mistake to think that an accurate portrayal of juveniles or the juvenile justice system across the country can be accomplished by shallow stories that take a glimpse of an incident here or a problem there. The true picture of youth in our nation today will only come with a deeper engagement with them and, the people in their lives and the organizations and entities that define and better their being.

In the coming year, then, we’ll bring you data-driven stories on the effectiveness of certain detention policies, analysis of the school-to-prison-pipeline, a comprehensive look at one state’s juvenile court system, why some groups of kids are more prone to commit certain crimes as well as dozens of feature and news stories.

We can’t cover every story of every young person in this nation. But we’ll do our best to give you the most complete picture of juvenile justice as we can.

Happy Holidays.

Southern States Must Address Middle Grades Education Immediately, Report Warns

SREB Middle Grades Report 2011 cover image

2011 SREB Middle Grades Report - click to viewOnly about a quarter of rising ninth graders in the Southeastern United States will graduate high school on time, according to a new report from the Southern Regional Educational Board (SREB).

“The middle grades are the make-or-break point of our K-12 public school system,” SREB President Dave Spence said in a press release. “If states are serious about raising graduation rates and preparing more students for postsecondary study, work has to begin now on the middle grades.”

The SREB is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established by regional governors and legislators to improve the public education system. The organization covers 16 states in the South and Southeast, working directly with state leaders, schools and educators to improve learning and student achievement from Pre-K to higher education.

The 16 states covered by the SREB have made “good” progress in early grades achievement in recent years according to the report, but a number still lag behind national standards.

Meanwhile, nation-wide, the likelihood an American teen will graduate from high school increased from 2006 to 2009 according to the 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book, an annual report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation on children’s well-being throughout the nation.

While some 1.1 million teens between the age of 16 and 19 didn’t graduate high school or failed to enroll in 2009, the number represents about a 50 percent decline in the dropout rate since 2000, according to Kids Count.

Today, students entering high school in the South have about a 50/50 shot of making it into some sort of postsecondary education by age 19, according to the SREB report, yet research has shown the job sectors expected to grow fastest in the coming years will require some sort of college degree or technical certificate.

Out of the SREB-district students that enrolled in a four-year college directly after high school in 2003, little more than half (53 percent) graduated within six years. Those enrolled in two-year colleges within the same period fared worse, with less than 20 percent graduating within three years.

According to 2009 figures, adults with a high school diploma earned an average of $8,500 a year more than adults without a diploma. Those with a bachelor’s degree average $26,000 more per year and tended to make healthier life choices, with a lower likelihood of becoming involved in the criminal justice system, according to the SREB report.

Fourteen other nations already exceed the United States in the percentage of 25- to 34- year-olds who have completed at least two years of education beyond high school, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

It’s a worrying trend, even for President Obama. At a July 2011 roundtable, the president called education “the single most important factor in determining not just whether our kids can compete for the best jobs, but whether America can out-compete countries around the world.”

Throughout his presidency, Obama has pushed for a greater focus in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The SREB report supports these initiatives, calling for an increased focus on both STEM studies and student literacy.

“Focusing on the middle grades curriculum to emphasize STEM in every subject means that more students will master these skills than in the past,” the SREB report notes. “They provide a foundation for continuing study in high school and for nearly all careers.”

To improve the states' graduation rates and help prepare students for high school, postsecondary study and even a future career, the 28-page report “A New Mission for Middle Grades: Preparing Students for a Changing World” offers a detailed, six-point roadmap to improving educational outcomes in middle school and beyond:

  • Communicate and clarify the mission in every middle grades school.
  • Focus the middle grades curriculum on literacy and STEM disciplines.
  • Identify middle grades students likely to drop out of school and intervene with increased learning time and accelerated instructions.
  • Require middle grades students to complete individual academic and career plans.
  • Refocus professional development for middle grades teachers, counselors and school leaders.
  • Hold districts and schools accountable for meeting the middle grades mission

According to the report, the middle grades are pivotal years for shaping a student’s future.

A phenomenon known as the “ninth-grade enrollment bulge” -- a chronic trend throughout the Southeast in which more students are enrolled in ninth grade than were enrolled in eighth grade due to being held back -- directly contributes to graduation rates, according to the report. Students cited not being on track to graduate with their peers as a critical factor in their decision to drop out of school.

Identifying those students at risk of dropping out or significantly lagging in the academic sector before they reach high school can reduce the “ninth-grade enrollment bulge” and ultimately the dropout rate, the report suggests.

“What we do to engage today’s sixth-grade students will have serious consequences for the strength of the economy in SREB states and the nation for years to come,” said North Carolina’s Gov. Beverly Perdue, former chair of the SREB Middle Grades Commission that produced the report.

Maryland has also started to develop a STEM resource clearinghouse with the hopes of bolstering early academic achievement in the state and facilitating an exchange of expertise and resources. Three county school districts are already online, but once completed the clearinghouse will act as a gateway for teachers to share knowledge, resources, and exchange ideas with STEM professionals and other academics.

“Part of the challenge is to move Maryland students to become world-class in STEM,” said June Streckfus, Executive Director of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education and Co-Chair of the 2008 [Maryland] Stem Task Force . “In order to do that we took a two-prong approach,” focusing on motivating students to enroll in harder classes while fulfilling the needs of the teaching staff in areas like professional development and resource availability.

Findings from Montgomery County, Md., one of the few school districts in the nation to start putting the SREB’s vision for effective middle school practices to work, supports the work being done to improve education in the state. Data, based on student achievement in the district suggests students who pass Algebra I in the eighth grade are twice as likely to continue on to college.

In North Carolina, state legislators have pledged to create 10 anchor schools with a focus on STEM curriculum. Three high schools focused on STEM curriculum have already been established, with more expected in the coming years. Students choose whether to attend a STEM-centric high school while still taking middle school classes.

The anchor schools aim to lead the state’s efforts to develop exemplary STEM curricula while serving as centers for professional development and lead the state in innovative teaching and learning practices, according to the SREB report.

$500 Grants for Youth-Led Hunger Initiatives

Youth Service America and the Sodexo FoundationYouth Service America (YSA) and the Sodexo Foundation are awarding 25 Sodexo Youth Grants, totaling $500 each, in an effort to support youth-led service projects in conjunction with National Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week (Nov. 13-20, 2011).

Applicants must be between the ages of 5 and 25 to qualify and the project idea must take place, at least in part, during National Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week.

More than 17 million kids in the United States are at risk of hunger, according to the YSA, including the one in four children that rely on free or reduced-price school meal programs.

Videos from past grant recipients are available on the YSA website. If considering the grant a good place to start may be the eligibility quiz.

Deadline is Sept. 16, 2011.

Verizon Focuses on ‘Meaningful Outcomes’ with Grants for Non-Profit Organizations

Verizon FoundationThe Verizon Foundation offers grants to select 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. Individuals are not eligible for the grant.

Perspective grantees must choose an area of concentration – education, literacy, domestic violence prevention, healthcare and accessibility or internet safety – with an emphasis on ‘meaningful outcomes and measureable results.’

Grant applications are considered on a rolling deadline January 1 through October 16, 2011.

A Grant to Mentor Kids Released from Jail

Organizations that want to help the 94,000 kids in residential confinement within the juvenile justice system may be able to get the Second Chance Act Adult Mentoring Grant. The Second Chance Act of 2007 provides a response to kids being released from prison, jail and juvenile residential facilities to help them transition back into their communities. The goal for this act is to make sure the transition will be successful and helps to promote public safety.

DAI Bill is DOA

A bill that would make decisions uniform about incarcerating juvenile offenders will not become law this year.

“I’ll be honest, this bill is not going anywhere,” said Catherine Lottie, legal counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, referring to H.B. 471.

“The governor’s office hasn’t seen it and his people need time to look at it for a number of issues, including how much it will cost the state.”

The measure, sponsored by the committee’s chair, Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) deals with so-called detention assessment instruments  (DAIs), evaluations used by officials that help to determine if a juvenile should be incarcerated or not.

DAIs allow intake officials to assign point values to juveniles who have been arrested. If the intake officer gives the accused a high enough score, the juvenile is detained. If the score does not reach a certain threshold, the accused is either released or put under some supervision, such as a monitoring bracket.

The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, which uses the form, describes the DAI as an objective instrument, “designed to enhance consistency and equity in the detention decision making process and to ensure that only those juveniles who represent a serious threat to public safety or failure to appear in court are held in secure pre-trial detention.”

Many juvenile justice officials in numerous jurisdictions across the state currently use DAIs, but their use is not required and officials are not obligated to adhere to them.

Lotti added that there was support for the legislation, but that there was also recognition that lawmakers are running out of time to address it. (Crossover day, when pending legislation must pass out of either the House or Senate to have a chance of becoming law) is Wednesday, March 16.

She also said the bill would receive a strong push next year.

“Willard,” she said, “wants to push this.

Senate Committee To Reschedule Code Rewrite Hearing

The clock is ticking for supporters of Georgia’s long-awaited juvenile code rewrite.  Crossover day — the critical mid-point in the legislative session, when Senate bills move over to the House of Representatives and House bills transition to the Senate — is now a little less than a week away. So far Senate Bill 127, also known as the Child Protection and Public Safety Act, has not yet made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) and if it does not do so before that critical deadline, it won’t be able to advance any further during this legislative session. That would be a major blow for supporters who have been involved in the rewrite process since 2004.

The committee was scheduled to discuss the measure at a hearing Wednesday. But the panel ran out of time after five hours, though members did manage to have extended discussions of several other bills. Representatives from the many stakeholder groups involved in the code rewrite, including JUST Georgia, the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and the Department of Juvenile Justices (DJJ) sat through the marathon meeting, waiting to no avail for the bill to top the agenda. Most of them left at 5 p.m. when it was announced that the bill would not be discussed that day.

Barton Child Law and Policy Center Policy Director Kirsten Widner, who has been leading the legislative effort on the measure, says it is not uncommon for committees to be jam-packed with discussions on several bills as the critical midpoint in the session approaches. She is now working with committee chairman Sen. Bill Hamrick (R- Carrollton) on establishing a time to reschedule the code hearing, ideally for some time later this week. Keep checking www.JJIE.org for updates.

The new code — the first in four decades — was introduced in 2009,  but it failed to make it to the floor for a vote by the end of the two-year legislative term. It was reintroduced on February 23 as SB 127, also known as “the Children’s Code.” If passed, the code rewrite would comprehensively revise Title 15, Chapter 11 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to juvenile courts and the cases they hear. Throughout 2009 and 2010, the SJC and a specially appointed subcommittee reviewed the bill in detail, and a group of stakeholders met to agree on issues that needed refinement in the Act.