Open Letter to RPS Superintendent Dana Bedden and members of the City of Richmond School Board

Given that truancy can be a life-and-death issue for students in Richmond [See Right Sidebar], I ask that you refuse to be bullied or bamboozled into accepting the terms of the deal that CAO Byron Marshall and other City Hall leaders are pushing to return the city's truancy program -- currently administered and managed by the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) -- to Richmond Public Schools. 

You need to ask them why they want you to clean up the mess they made for less money than they spent.  According to a March 2013 presentation made to Richmond City Council, Richmond Juvenile Justice Department  spent $1,919,000 on truancy efforts.  They now propose to "give" you $1,541,850. 

Ask them -- in detail -- about the findings in City Auditor Umesh Dalal's March 2013 audit of the City's Juvenile Justice Services.  Please pay close attention the concerns expressed by the judges of Richmond's Juvenile and Domestic Court about the quality of the city's program and their overall lack of confidence in the city's ability to deliver.   

Please note that some of the programs and services provided by RDJS are funded via the Virginia Juvenile Community Crime Control Act (VJCCCA). In addition, the City of Richmond serves as a fiscal agent and is responsible for payment and record-keeping of all expenditures incurred by CSU. (State funds) and RDJS (State and City funds). The total funding received from the City and the State during FY 12 was $10,377,988. 

Other concerns expressed by the judges to Dalal and his staff  ranged from overall quality of RDJS services to truants and their families as well as a fundamental communications breakdown between the judges/CSU and members of city's truancy office.  (To wit:)
  • a perceived failure to guarantee acceptable standards of care in the delivery of services that target the needs of juveniles under Court supervision. 
  • In addition to the Court’s 2007 abstention from approving the VJCCCA plan that provides funding for specific programs, 
  • The Judges expressed reluctance to approve a similar plan in 2012. During interviews, the Judges expressed concerns about the programs’ contents and methods of delivering program services. 
  • They also had concerns about RDJS’ receptiveness to the Judges’ and CSU’s input.
    In addition, the communication between RDJS and CSU/Judges needs to improve. 
  • The regular communication between RDJS and CSU discontinued for a period of about three years and resumed recently in October 2012. 
  • Communication between RDJS and CSU is critical [..and] within the last two years, three RDJS programs were discontinued. For one of the programs, CSU has trained its staff to provide services instead of RDJS. The state discontinued a second program but has recognized a need in the current funding plan for a revised plan. 
From analysis of RDJS data for FY 2012, it appears that 93% of all RDJS participants were initially referred to them for their truant behavior. These juveniles subsequently get involved in more serious violations of law. Educating and counseling juveniles to correct their behavior at a young age may be more effective in addressing juvenile delinquency

Beyond the problems with DJS, it appears that RPS has been grossly neglecting its statutory duties as to truant students. []  In particular, RPS has not been filing the CHINS petitions and prosecuting the parents of persistent truants as required by law.  I think it would be important to have some current data on that subject. 

Therefore, I ask that you provide all public records showing one or more of the following all years from 2008 - 2009 to 2013-14:
  • number of students with 5 unexcused absences
  • number of attendance plans created
  • number of students with 6 unexcused absences
  • number of conferences scheduled
  • number of students with 7 unexcused absences
  • number of CHINS petitions submitted to court
  • number of petitions not filed because court created an attendance plan
  • number of attendance plans created by court
  • number of those attendance plans completed successfully
  • number of petitions filed because attendance plan not completed successfully
  • outcomes of those petitions
  • reasons for any petitions not sustained
  • number of parent prosecutions submitted to court under each statute
  • outcomes of those prosecutions