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Who We Serve

Youth Involved in the Juvenile & Criminal Justice Systems

Youth Involved in the Juvenile and Criminal Justice Systems

Advocates for Children of New York (AFC)’s School Justice Project (SJP) provides case advocacy and legal representation for youth facing court involvement, school suspension, and/or emotional challenges to help resolve their education-related issues to increase their academic achievements. We work to secure appropriate school placements and educational services for youth involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems and those in danger of dropping out, or being pushed out, of school due to unfair and ineffective disciplinary policies and procedures. The project also works to build capacity within the community by providing trainings and technical assistance to parents, young people, social service agencies, attorneys, judges, probation officers, and aftercare workers.

Guides & Resources

AFC’s Guide for Court-Involved Students: Understanding the education rights of NYC students in & coming out of the juvenile or criminal justice system [PDF]
This guide includes a basic overview of the education rights of young people ages 7 to 21 in New York City who are or were involved in the juvenile or criminal justice system. It includes information about the education rights of youth in community and court-ordered settings (such as juvenile detention, juvenile placement, or Rikers Island). It also has information to help students transition back to school and find a school that meets the student’s needs. Also available in Spanish [PDF].

Policy Work

AFC plays a leadership role in numerous coalitions and task forces in New York City addressing discipline reform and educational services for court-involved youth. We worked with the former Chief Judge of New York State, Judith Kaye, and the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children to launch the School-Justice Partnership Task Force. The Task Force brought together key stakeholders and experts from a variety of disciplines to coordinate efforts and develop recommendations to promote school engagement and reduce the flow of New York City students entering the juvenile and criminal justice systems. In May 2013, the Task Force released a report, Keeping Kids in School and out of Court [PDF]. The report outlines a plan of action as well as provides specific recommendations to keep kids in school and out of court.

AFC also advocates for systemic reform with respect to school discipline and the role of New York Police Department personnel in schools. AFC is a co-founder and steering committee member of The Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York (DSC-NY), a coalition of students, parents, advocates and educators calling for positive, school-wide approaches to discipline that improve school climate and increase learning.  Our goal is to create safe and supportive school climates in all New York City public schools without the need for school police or metal detectors, where young people are not suspended and removed from class, and where teachers and students have training and support to prevent and resolve conflicts in positive ways.


J.G. v. Mills  
The plaintiffs in this action claimed that upon being released from a court-ordered setting, they had been denied timely re-enrollment in New York City schools. The students claimed that court-involved youth were regularly denied the opportunity to return to school or were warehoused in alternative settings where court-involved youth are segregated and do not afford them minimally adequate educational services. The complaint also contained allegations on behalf of two subclasses: court-involved youth with disabilities and class members who did not receive adequate educational services while in detention in New York City.