School-Justice Partnership & Early Warning System

In 2014, The Mahoning County Juvenile Court was one of only four juvenile courts in the nation to be awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to address the following factors:

  1. Poor school attendance
  2. Behavioral issues
  3. Poor academic performance
  4. Future involvement with the justice system

From this grant came about the Early Warning System (EWS)—a partnership between the Juvenile Court, multiple Mahoning County school districts, and Alta Behavioral Health.  There are four components to the Early Warning System:

  1. Regular multidisciplinary team meetings at the school
  2. Case management services provided by a Court Intake Officer
  3. Girls and Boys Programming provided by a Court Intake Officer 
  4. Behavioral health screens by Alta

As part of EWS, multidisciplinary teams throughout the districts meet regularly to identify students who have, or are at risk of having, poor attendance, behavior and grades.  Once a student is identified, the teams attempt to engage the student and their family to determine barriers to school success, while building upon student and family strengths.  If appropriate, an Intake Officer will provide case management services to the student and family.  

Intake Officers also facilitate evidence-based programming at participating schools, including Girls Circle, Boys Council, and Men of Honor.  

  • Girls Circle is a structured support group for females that integrates relational theory, resiliency practice and skills training.  The format is designed to increase positive connection, personal and collective strengths, and competence.  
  • Boys Council builds friendship and brings attention to situations encountered by boys.  It also encourages boys to celebrate their differences while helping them reflect on positive and negative life choices.
  • Men of Honor emphasizes the importance of being a productive citizen.  It provides opportunities to ask questions that males may not feel comfortable asking others.  It also focuses on future goals and aspirations and utilizes interactive activities that promote communication.  

Additionally, students can receive free behavioral health screens through Alta Behavioral Health with parental consent.  

The partnering school districts include: Austintown, Boardman, Campbell, Canfield, Jackson-Milton, Mahoning County High School, Sebring, Struthers, and Youngstown Community School.  

Below is the common flow of truancy cases through the Court with schools participating in EWS:

  1. EWS meeting—The student’s progress is discussed by the team, who decides if and when to move to the next stage.
  2. Pre-truancy hearing—This meeting is held at the school with the EWS team.  This meeting may be held in a group or individually with the student and family.  The goal is to explain the attendance laws, to identify student and family strengths, to identify any barriers to school success, and to resolve such barriers.
  3. Unofficial Court referral—A truancy referral is sent to the Court for unofficial handling.
  4. Official charges against the student or parent are requested of the Prosecutor.