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Master's Professional Reports Abstract

Schools of Last Resort: A Study of the Development and Implementation of Juvenile Alternative Education Programs in Texas

In 1995, the Texas legislature expressed an interest in not only reforming the juvenile justice system, but also in addressing issues that involve juvenile offenders in the public school system. As a result of this effort, chapter 37 of the Education Code was adopted as part of Senate Bill 1. This provision primarily looked towards developing a two tier alternative education setting for students at risk. One such program, the Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP), is the focus of this paper. Prior to Senate Bill 1, the responsibility of providing education to the public school children of Texas lay solely in the hands of school districts; however, as of September 1996, for the first time, individual counties were mandated to develop JJAEPs for children expelled from the public school system. First, this paper traces developments in the legislature which led to the creation of this new program, and then, considers the statutory requirements as mandated by the subsequently enacted chapter 37 of the Education Code. Using phone interviews and three case studies, the next chapters examine how different counties are implementing the chapter 37 mandate, and then, consider the following two widely used programmatic models: boot camp and therapeutic models. The remainder of the paper offers a slate of issues that need to be considered in the 75th legislative session. Based on the limited data on the viability of the JJAEPs, the author recognizes the need for an independent evaluation of the JJAEPs which makes it understood to all the interested parties that the future of the JJAEPs will depend on the findings of the evaluation to be considered in the 76th legislative session. From case study findings, the author also discusses some of the strengths and weaknesses of these JJAEPs whereby all can have the opportunity to share ideas and learn from the successes and failures of others. Finally, the author concludes that, although initially costly, a sincere investment in these alternative programs will bring enormous economical and societal benefits for the state.

--Author's foreword.