These Approaches Help Young Fathers Leaving the Criminal Justice System

Becoming a father for the first time can be difficult for anyone, but when you do so in your teens or early 20s and have been incarcerated, it can be overwhelming. The right supports — stable housing, reliable networks, ties to employment, knowing how to build skills in fatherhood and healthy relationships — are essential.

This was certainly true for 22-year-old James* and 20-year-old Marcus*. Both became fathers before their incarceration; both wanted to be the best dads they could be, and both needed help upon release to do so.

After being released from prison, James joined the T.O.R.I. Program, which offered family reunification classes and employment support. During the 12-month program he learned new skills to provide for and nurture his daughter, like how to appropriately resolve conflict and effectively co-parent.

Marcus enrolled in the RIDGE Project while in prison, which offered training to help build character, leadership and job preparedness skills. Upon release, he continued to work with his caseworker to complete job applications and prepare for interviews. Within weeks, he found a job and an apartment.  

T.O.R.I and RIDGE are both faith-based reentry programs funded by federal, state, local and private funds. Each helps young fathers build their parenting and relationships skills, find employment and change the course of their lives. T.O.R.I. was founded in Texas in 2005 to provide holistic wraparound services for men and women after incarceration. Since its inception, T.O.R.I. has provided assistance in getting housing, employment, education and health care, among other services, to more than 10,000 fathers and mothers.

The RIDGE Project, with offices throughout Ohio, was co-founded by Ron Tijerina following his own experience as an incarcerated father. RIDGE provides classes on fatherhood, leadership, healthy relationships and job preparedness inside prisons. It also provide referrals for housing, mental health and addiction recovery upon release. RIDGE has served more than 14,000 individuals since its inception in 2000.

Since 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has funded 103 fatherhood grants, nine of which have focused on reentering fathers. Additionally, since 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice has funded 16 fatherhood/reentry grants. These investments come at a time where more than 5 million children (7 percent of all children under 18) live with a parent who went to jail or prison. And about 92 percent of all incarcerated parents are fathers; some estimate that as many as 30 percent of incarcerated teen males are also fathers.  

As many state and federal programs continue to strategically invest in employment and parenting supports for returning young fathers, promising approaches have begun to emerge. The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse has developed resources for human service professionals who support fathers and families, including those impacted by incarceration. Their Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit, which includes modules on working with incarcerated and returning fathers, suggests that service providers:

  • Offer pre-release assistance with child support, education and job training to prepare dads for reentry.
  • Encourage dads to write letters to their children on a regular basis, create books or art for their children, and read a book to their child, either over the phone or via audio or video recording.
  • Show fathers the value in developing a working relationship with their child’s mother and provide them with skills to improve this relationship.
  • Connect with the mother and family before a father’s release.
  • Provide relationship skills classes for couples when possible, and link fathers to community services upon release.
  • Develop relationships with local employers to help dads with employment opportunities.
  • Counsel men to be upfront with potential employers about their criminal record.

Programs like RIDGE and T.O.R.I. are providing important support services to young fathers and their children — to help break the cycle of generational incarceration. They provide parenting and healthy relationships skills training, job readiness and placement support, mentoring and case management to maintain communication channels within families during incarceration and grow them upon release.  

*Names changed

Eugene Schneeberg, is a senior fatherhood & families technical specialist at ICF, where he works on technical assistance and outreach activities related to Responsible Fatherhood, Prisoner Reentry and workforce programs. He is the former director of the U.S. Department of Justice Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships.

Book Review: The Art of Holistic Security

We live in a world of best practices. Some call themselves evidence-based best practices (EBP), some are simply promising practices based on evidence from somewhere, and a few are practices grounded in evidence-based research (EBR).

Confusing, eh? Part of the confusion stems from the difficulty and complexity of achieving successful outcomes with youth in custody. In part, the striking effectiveness of recent juvenile detention reforms, particularly JDAI, has removed from secure custody those youth who can thrive in nonsecure alternatives, leaving behind the most at-risk and troubled youth. Confusing has now jumped to complicated and challenging.

Evidence-based practices with their concerns about model fidelity sometimes sound too formulaic for practitioners. The flipside of evidence-based practice is case law-driven practice. Here, author D.L. Reed does a good job of using case law and juvenile rights as justification for certain practices, especially grievances.

If evidence-based practice and case law tell us what to do, the ongoing challenge is how to do those things. The realities of daily life in secure custody settings rarely lend themselves to precise problem-solving, and the reactions of youth never seem to follow the script from staff training handouts.

We continue to search for some field guide that acknowledges that what we tell new detention workers to expect rarely happens, so, in Boy Scouting parlance, we need to be prepared — prepared to respond quickly and effectively to fluid circumstances and changing situations that more accurately characterize secure custody. So, trial and error moves the field slowly in the direction of progress despite the frequent disconnects between new models and their outcomes with youth.

Successful secure custody practices are more an art than a science, and the scarcity of effective, safe and humane conditions of confinement serves as evidence that the art still needs substantial help. In that regard, this book is a basic primer of understandable and useful insights that are helpful to practitioners in implementing effective programs and services.

Reed uses long-standing and straightforward concepts to connect what and why with how questions. Information and explanations follow essential theories of human behavior to support his positive approach to physical and emotional security. While many of the references are to anecdotal research and secondary sources, the utility of the book is just that: The content starts with the assumption that the reader knows very little about the theory and practice underlying Reed’s model. Juvenile care workers sometimes have formal education, sometimes in related fields, and sometimes beyond a year or two of full-time study. For these individuals, the book is a constructive resource.

One example of its utility is the description of a behavior management system. Reed provides a basic introduction of behavioral principles that serves as a refresher for new and veteran staff members. More importantly, he presents the information using multiple adult learning styles. The graduated rewards/privileges continuum is a visual representation of a comprehensive and expansive system that serves as a workable tool for immediate adaptation in a variety of different facilities.

The same applies to the discussions about de-escalation and safety. Appropriately, the book also contains a section on reentry. Without the need to know the intricacies of evidence-based research and references, direct-care staff still have a great affinity for strategies that make sense, are understandable and are effective; and these are precise descriptions of Reed’s book.

Other sample forms and data-collecting materials are also excellent, and the uncomplicated explanations of them raise questions as to why the reader would not implement them immediately. The topics left uncovered suggest the need for a volume 2, and experienced practitioners can generate their own list of deficiencies.

But that is not the point. This book is positive, encouraging, hopeful and above all else relevant. It moves the field forward, emphasizing how to apply Edward P. Mulvey and Carol A. Schubert's concepts of content and process (see Pathways to Desistance research). Employing the wisdom and techniques in this book will improve any secure custody practice regardless of its current status. To the juvenile detention practitioner, you will do better after reading it.

David Roush, Ph.D., has been active in juvenile detention and corrections for more than 45 years. As a facility superintendent, he earned four national awards for innovation and excellence, two from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. A specialist on conditions of confinement, he conducted compliance monitoring for the U.S. Department of Justice. While at Michigan State University, he taught classes on juvenile detention, conducted research and coordinated federally funded training and technical assistance to juvenile justice agencies.

Foundation Strives to Create Legacy for Juvenile Justice Reform

Models for Change 2012 Annual Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The nonprofit MacArthur Foundation has spent more than $100 million since 2004 on developing blueprints for reform within the juvenile justice systems of 16 states. Earlier this week, its reform initiative, Models for Change, brought together nearly 400 judges, advocates, probation officers and other juvenile justice professionals for two days of workshops in Washington, D.C.

It was the seventh such yearly gathering for Models for Change partners, and it came at a time when the foundation is beginning to wind down funding for new research into juvenile justice reforms and enter a new phase focused on defining, sustaining and disseminating to the rest of the country the reform models its state partners and networks have already developed.

As the foundation moves toward solidifying the legacy of its blueprint initiative, its conference this year emphasized the power of storytelling and collaboration as a way to convey the impact of justice reforms to other states and to the public.

The storytelling theme ran through several events over the two-day event. Public relations professionals held a plenary session to discuss how juvenile justice organizations could craft an effective public message.

University of California at Santa Barbara professor Richard Ross exhibited a collection

Keynote speaker Cheryl Corley of NPR.

of photographs that illustrated the stark conditions within juvenile facilities around the country. Journalists from the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange and CBS This Morning held a hands-on workshop to explain how justice professionals could engage the media without compromising the privacy of minors. And NPR reporter Cheryl Corley gave a keynote address explaining how she came to report a radio series on juvenile offenders in Chicago last year.

More than a dozen people sat down to record short videos of their experiences within the juvenile justice system at a video booth. The videos are up on the JJIE website.

Another conference theme emerged around fostering collaboration: training attendees to recognize the multiple ways individuals, agencies and local governments can work together to improve the treatment of children in the justice system. Workshops addressed ways to involve families of juvenile offenders more closely with their child’s treatment; encourage state agencies to seek common goals with watchdog organizations; get court and child welfare agencies to share data more effectively; and build relationships between public defender offices and local law schools.

Plenary speakers encouraged cash-strapped public entities to partner with private organizations and foundations as a way to grow their resources and further their reach in replicating and sustaining reform models throughout the country.

Collaborative efforts by private foundations like MacArthur are motivating the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to develop its own partnerships with private philanthropic entities, said Marlene Beckman, the counsel to the assistant attorney general at the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice, at a conference panel.

Federal officials recently met with a group of philanthropic organizations to solicit guidance on how to work with the private sector, Beckman said. The Obama administration was very interested in such partnerships, she said.

Julia Stasch, VP, MacArthur Foundation and Marlene Beckman, Counsel to Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

Among the feedback the federal juvenile justice office received from philanthropic groups at that meeting was that federal agencies needed to collaborate more closely with each other – between the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Health and Human Services, for example – and present a united leadership front when seeking partners from the private sector, Beckman said.

The group also advised the federal office of juvenile justice that it needed to communicate more effectively with private partners so that everyone understands their priorities and goals, and shares a vision for desired outcomes, Beckman said.

“Up until now, we have been more the follower than the leader,” Beckman said of the federal office’s role in developing public-private partnerships in pursuit of justice reforms.

Editor's note: The MacArthur Foundation supports the work of JJIE.

Photos courtesy of Models for Change. 

DOJ: Sunlight, Lawsuit to Close Miss. School-to-Prison Pipeline

Meridian courthouseThe U.S. Department of Justice says a school-to-prison pipeline that runs through schools, the city police department and juvenile courts threatens children in Meridian, Miss. The school system is negotiating a new set of rules with the DOJ. The city, county, youth court and state of Mississippi, meanwhile, have just gotten hit with a federal lawsuit, and attention that may have already changed their ways.

“We filed this lawsuit because we have to,” said U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin, in a public telephone conference on Oct. 25, the day after his department sued the City of Meridian, Lauderdale County, the county Youth Court judges and Mississippi’s Division of Youth Services claiming that the four agencies work together to ignore children’s due process rights and incarcerate them for minor infractions.

“Children are being incarcerated in the juvenile detention center for days at a time after they are arrested, without a probable cause hearing, by the Youth Court,” said Austin.

schoolppipe_series“We found that children have been incarcerated for being suspended from school for things like dress code violations or talking back to teachers,” he continued.

The DOJ charges that the Meridian police arrest kids on the schools’ word, without looking into probable cause that the young person has committed a crime; and that kids are held sometimes for days without any hearing or meaningful legal help. Once the youth hit probation, they are offered contracts that they have no chance of understanding, the DOJ alleges, nor is there a proper probation hearing.

This pipeline disproportionately swallows up black children and children who have disabilities, the DOJ also said.  Their findings came at the end of an eight-month investigation.

Austin said they brought the findings to the state and local agencies in August 2012 and invited them to negotiations. “Unfortunately all of the defendants decided that they did not want to do this,” he said.

[module align="right" width="half" type="aside"] 

Learn more about school discipline reform trends at the Juvenile Justice Resource Hub HERE.


Lauderdale County Attorney Richard Barry did not immediately return requests for comment on the lawsuit. Meridian City Attorney Ronnie Walton is out of town.  The two, however, released a letter in August claiming the federal investigation was faulty and that, on privacy grounds, they could not cooperate with the federal government’s request for juvenile court records.

But, said Jackson-based Assistant U.S. Attorney Al Jernigan, “shining a light on this problem has done an awful lot to cause some immediate changes … there have been some substantial changes in police practice and the referrals from the school system.”

Indeed, Meridian mother Stephanie Stringfellow, also on the conference call, said she knew of a case that very morning of a child getting a probable cause hearing.

But overall, she worried that “it’s not going to work like everyone’s been saying on the phone.” She pointed out that if children get suspended from school “that gives them time to get in trouble.”

Since suspension is something that happens under the school roof, not via police and courts, it might come to an earlier resolution than the charges about cops and courts.

The new case deals with what happens to youth from the minute police get involved, through the police, court, and any jail time or probation. Schools are not a part of the new lawsuit.

Instead, the Meridian school system is under federal supervision dating from a 1960s desegregation order. In 2010, the DOJ approached the schools about allegations of a phone call to the police every time there was a physical altercation on campus, and of terminating black employees. The DOJ and the school system are in talks about what kind of orderly, predictable discipline rules should apply on campus. Since 2010, a new superintendent has taken over the system and written a new student handbook.

“What has been proposed is very complex and deals with almost any issue you can imagine,” said Jernigan, explaining that the schools have been cooperative. Though nothing final has been yet published, he said he foresees part of the deal will put monitors into the school system.

The new and old cases are like two puzzle pieces that ideally would fit closely together and make a full picture. But, clarified Austin, “one party [the school district] has decided to sit down and talk to us and move this thing forward in a constructive way. The other side has decided they don’t want to cooperate with us.”

It’s not clear how long it will take for the DOJ, Mississippi, Lauderdale, Meridian and the Youth Court to sit at the same table.   The defendants must now respond to the federal lawsuit, and depending on how and what both sides argue, the case could take months, if not years.

When Children Kill Other Children

Last week there was yet another  heartbreaking report of a child killing another child.  This time the news came from Jacksonville, Florida.  Cristian Fernandez is accused of beating to death his two-year-old half brother, David, when he was just twelve years old.  The state has charged Cristian with first-degree murder.  He is being prosecuted as an adult and could face a life sentence.

Stories like this get a lot of media attention.  Reporters swarm and sensationalize.  The public consumes and wants more.  To sell their papers, to drive traffic to their web sites, the press complies.

He sounds like a bad kid, we think as we read the details.  Only a monster would commit such an act, we tell each other.  He must be truly evil, we conclude as we turn the page to the next tragedy.

But wait, there is more.  Cristian himself was born to a twelve year-old child, a girl who was sexually assaulted by a 25 year-old man.  At age two, he was placed in foster care after he was found, naked and dirty, wandering the streets of South Florida at 4 a.m.  His young mother had disappeared.  His grandmother, entrusted with his care, was holed up in a nearby motel, high on cocaine.

We listen and reluctantly acknowledge the boy’s history.  But it doesn’t excuse killing your own kin, we say.  Even twelve year olds know the difference between right and wrong.  Right…?

Yet, the litany continues.  We learn that Cristian was sexually abused at age eight by an older cousin.  He acted out in troubling ways that caught the attention of officials – killing a kitten, masturbating at school, and simulating sex with classmates.  At eleven, living with his mother and her new husband in a Miami suburb, he came to school with a severe eye injury.  When he was examined at the hospital for retinal damage, Cristian told police that his stepfather had punched him in the face.   Officers arrived at their apartment only to find the man dead by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The family tried to recover.  They moved north to Jacksonville.  Cristian entered middle school, but the damage had been done.

Within months, two-year-old David was also dead, his skull fractured and his brain bleeding.  Cristian admitted to the crime.  The boys’ mother, now 25, was charged with aggravated manslaughter.  She had left her small children alone with Cristian and failed to take the unconscious toddler to the hospital quickly enough to save him.  She has pled guilty and could face 30 years in prison.

Meanwhile, Cristian’s case is pending.  After his five-year-old half brother told a psychiatrist that Cristian had sexually assaulted him, another charge was added.

Investigators, therapists, and lawyers have since weighed in.  Some say that Cristian’s actions were triggered by a “flashback” to his stepfather’s abuse, that police violated his rights, and that he lacked the intent necessary to commit the crimes.  Others say that he poses a significant risk to the community if released, that he should be held accountable for his crimes, and that he must be punished as an adult, for he was old enough to “know better.”

Motions will be filed; hearings will be held.  Reporters will ask questions, and more articles will be written.

Despite the intense degree of media attention given to such incidents, homicides committed by children under 14 are exceedingly rare in the United States.  According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were only 29 in 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

So, the question becomes a choice between different theories of punishment: retribution or rehabilitation.  Must we exact revenge on children when they murder other children?  Must we cast them out of society until they are old and enfeebled, as we do with the majority of adults convicted of homicide?

Or might these concepts be immaterial when sentencing young offenders?  Instead of fashioning a proportionate punishment for the death of one child at the hands of another, why not commit ourselves to the surviving child’s healing? Shouldn’t society bear some, if not most, of the responsibility for these tragedies?  Rather than spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the criminal prosecution and imprisonment of a young offender like Cristian Fernandez, why not invest those monies and resources toward his recovery?

Last week as I celebrated the Jewish New Year, my rabbi reminded the congregation that the oft-used phrase, “l’chaim,” does not mean, “to a single life,” but “to lives.”  In other words, when we toast to the future, to happiness, and to health, we are not merely hoping for our own wellbeing but for the good of all.

One child’s life has already been lost.  Must we lose another?

OP-ED: Shameful Treatment of Children in Meridian, Miss. Is Not the Only Example of School-to-Prison Pipeline

Tamar Birckhead newIn recent years, juvenile justice advocates, lawyers, policy-makers, and reformers have increasingly sought to raise awareness of the American phenomenon of the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

The term refers generally to the process in which substandard public schools fail to provide adequate support and resources for at-risk children and their families, resulting in high drop-out rates and ultimately leading to court-involvement, detention and incarceration.

More specifically, the term refers to the pattern in which students who have committed school-based wrongdoing — whether by pushing another child in the hallway, taking a pencil from a teacher’s desk, or disrupting class — are summarily arrested, charged with violating a criminal offense, and prosecuted in juvenile delinquency court. After a judge finds them delinquent, youth are then placed on probation and court-ordered to comply with a long series of conditions, typically including that they not be suspended (or not be suspended again) from school. In many jurisdictions when a juvenile on probation is suspended — even for a minor infraction at school — the consequences of the violation may include incarceration in a detention center.

schoolppipe_seriesResearch has shown that youth who are disproportionately impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline are likely to be those who are already the most vulnerable: low-income students, children of color, English language learners, youth in foster care, students with disabilities (whether physical, psychological, or developmental), and homeless children. Often such students fall into more than one of these categories.

It is against this background that the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a stunning letter last week summarizing the findings of a comprehensive investigation into the unconstitutional treatment of children in Meridian, Miss. In its press release, the DOJ asserts that the local police, the county juvenile court, and the state agency in charge of the juvenile detention center in Meridian, “help to operate a school-to-prison pipeline whereby children arrested in local schools become entangled in a cycle of incarceration without substantive and procedural protections required by the U.S. Constitution.”

The letter, authored by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, details a systemic process that begins when the Meridian Police Department automatically arrests all students who are referred to the police by the Meridian Public School District for disciplinary infractions, including dress code violations.

[module align="right" width="half" type="aside"] 

Learn more about school discipline reform trends at the Juvenile Justice Resource Hub HERE.


The police “do not assess the facts or circumstances of the alleged charge, or whether the alleged conduct actually qualifies as an arrestable offense.” Instead, they serve as a “taxi service” from the schools to the juvenile detention center, “routinely” handcuffing and arresting students without custody orders or an independent determination of probable cause. After the student reaches the detention center, an intake officer issues a “temporary” custody order, and then a Lauderdale County Youth Court judge holds a hearing and issues a detention order — again without a probable cause finding. These proceedings also violate federal law requiring that children taken into custody receive detention hearings within 48 hours, as Meridian’s juvenile court hearings — including detention hearings — are held only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

As for the juvenile’s right to counsel, established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 with In re Gault, the DOJ found that children in Meridian are “not always” appointed an attorney for detention or adjudication hearings, and that the public defender who is appointed “does not provide children and guardians with meaningful or effective representation.” Following adjudication, the juvenile court places children on probation, requiring them to serve any school suspensions for alleged disciplinary infractions while incarcerated in the juvenile detention center.  In short, the existing due process protections provided by Meridian’s juvenile justice system are both “illusory and inadequate.”

As is typical of districts impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline, the Meridian students most severely affected by these practices are African-American children and children with disabilities. The DOJ letter specifies that while Meridian’s general population is approximately 62 percent black and 36 percent white, student enrollment in the public schools is 86 percent black and 12 percent white. Approximately 13 percent of Meridian’s students are identified as having disabilities, and its students are suspended or expelled at a rate almost seven times the rate for Mississippi schools statewide.

During the course of their eight-month investigation, the Civil Rights Division unsuccessfully sought access to Meridian juvenile court records and an opportunity to speak with its personnel. Judges Frank Coleman and Veldore Young and county officials refused to allow DOJ to observe court proceedings, interview staff, or review files. They also directed the city to deny DOJ access to the law enforcement records of the children referred by the schools to the Meridian Police Department. Although DOJ seeks “meaningful negotiations” with the involved agencies and believes that a “collaborative approach” to resolving the violations “would be productive,” a federal lawsuit against state, county and local officials will be filed if “expeditious” progress is not made.

This is not the first time that Meridian’s mistreatment of children and teens has drawn the attention of authorities. Several years ago, the town’s juvenile detention center was the subject of a federal lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. A settlement was reached in 2010 that ended the detention center’s policy of confining youth in unsanitary cells for 23 hours each day, punishing them with Mace or pepper spray, and locking them in a mechanical “restraint chair.”

Lauderdale County officials agreed to provide meaningful rehabilitative, educational, and recreational programs as well as upgraded mental health screening and adequate medical treatment for those held at the center. They also agreed to consider community-based alternatives to detention. It is unclear whether these reforms were implemented.

In regard to the current allegations against those entrusted to care for and serve the children of Meridian, the media will likely portray them as an anomaly—a situation that is limited to the backwaters of Mississippi and not at all illustrative of the general quality of juvenile justice in the United States. From my perspective, however, while the evidence is indeed shocking, the reality is that the school-to-prison pipeline exists in many—too many—of our nation’s struggling school districts. More stunning, perhaps, is the federal government’s explicit acknowledgement that the phenomenon exists, that the pattern of conduct is unconstitutional, and that it must end.

The Meridian case also differs from incidents such as the “kids for cash” scandal  uncovered several years ago in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, in which juvenile court judges were motivated by financial gain to illegally sentence thousands of children to private juvenile detention centers in a racketeering scheme that netted them millions of dollars. In contrast, the agency personnel and officials in Meridian are unfairly treating children out of “systemic disregard” for their welfare. Meridian police “may subjectively believe that they are acting appropriately” in following established policy, but they have diverted their attention from the larger — and graver — picture. In other words, these violations stem from detachment and impassivity, from a failure to consider each child as an individual. The teachers, administrators, police and judges of Meridian view these young people as all the same, indistinguishable from one another, defined by their alleged infractions, and assumed to be guilty and deserving of incarceration. As a result, thousands of children — mostly African-American, many of whom are disabled — have unnecessarily been arrested, handcuffed, adjudicated as juvenile delinquents, and incarcerated. They have been stigmatized by an insidious “cycle of incarceration.” They have been socialized to believe that they are not worth any more than the next name on the juvenile court docket.

Yes, the “serious and longstanding” violations uncovered in Mississippi are unacceptable and should be condemned. But they are not limited to a single town in the South. The school-to-prison pipeline exists in cities, suburbs and towns all across the United States. It is not only there. It is here.

Bullying Horror Stories: Civil Rights Workers Get Personal

A new anti bullying video is out from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. It focuses on fighting the harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender kids and those who don’t conform to gender stereotypes about male or female behavior or appearance.

The video features several Division employees sharing their childhood struggles with being bullied and harassed. In this short video, the staff was surprisingly candid about not only being attacked by other kids, but by parents and teachers as well. Staffers go on to encourage young people who are bullied and harassed, by letting them know their futures are still bright.

Click here to view the video.