Youth Court Dispositions – Strength-Based Justice bias #youthcourt

Background – San Bernardino High has implemented a site-based youth court this year, with disappointing application. We have not had very many cases due to poor understanding of the students who will do well in the model, following up on dispositions (what the students must do to clear their injury to the school), and calendaring times to hold youth court at a time accessible to all involved. We have been holding hearings for fights and are expanding to include attendance violations.

Strength-based premise – Students serve as jury members during hearings (and the respondent eventually joins the jury for future hearings). They do a great job of identifying the problem, and where students’ attitudes, choices, and actions should be. But they struggle with assigning dispositions that will assist the responding student in improving over the long term. The targets that we have developed in the IFT SBJ summit at table 6 along with the tools we were introduced to can serve as a guide for the jurors. Respondents with attendance issues are advertising to the school community that they are falling through the cracks. We seek to reconnect them to the campus and persuade them to become positive contributors to the school community.

Specifically, respondents could be recommended to work directly with their counselor (or pathway lead) to the strengths inventory with Thrively. The juror could then recommend that the student develop THEIR OWN 5-10 hour service project that contributes to the school facility, or to human beings at the school, that relies on their strengths. Other dispositions could include working on campus to further the SBJ values found in our Provocative Proposition. Students have 30 school days to complete their disposition. Our proposition states:

Every member of Utopia Unified is committed to preparing students to live self-determined, positive, free lives by empowering them with robust academic skills, impactful experiences, and risk-taking opportunities within a culture of safety, willingness, and positivity.

We value healthy relationships, collaboration, recognition, empathy, choice and adding value to others in our community.

To grow our team, students in the Law and Society pathway, as well as the teachers affiliated with the pathway will be trained (or even develop) on questions asking that elucidates the students’ deficits, reasons for their behavior, as well as strengths that may be used during the disposition. Additionally, we will train two staff-member judges who can be available during the week.

The structure is established for fights, and is in process for ditching. On Monday, and throughout the next month and summer recess, we will develop the full structure and communication strategy for shifting all dispositions to the SBJ approach, in line with our Provocative Proposition.

Intended outcomes are to connect students to the campus and the entirety of the resources offered, and to improve student willingness to take advantage of the services, clubs, sports, etc.

I am in charge and will have it ready to go on the first day back to school in August 2018.

We will network during scheduled professional development time and after school.

Parents are strongly encouraged to attend the youth court hearing with their student. The parents are also asked questions and given opportunities to describe for the jury members their perspective about what happened, and how to best use this opportunity for their student.


Tune-In and Turn-On: Strength-Based Teacher Driven Change

Let’s move from theory to practice.  Tune-In and Turn-On to what’s great about teaching and public education.  Watch and listen to CTA IFT Think Tank members discuss key member engagement issues facing teachers, public education, and students.  Discussion topics include: (1) Millennials, (2) Think Tank Projects, (3) Seven Factors Driving a Culture of Success, (4) Technology, (5) Think Tanks as a Catalyst for Public Education Change, and (6) the IFT Strength-Based Member Engagement Project. 

The program is live now on Facebook or watch at your convenience. 

 Go To:

Join the IFT Strength Based HUB to join the conversation…

Schoolwide Relations

Schoolwide Relations

Schoolwide Relations

When our schoolwide community puts the absolute greatest value on children, our public schools can soar.

Some educators no longer like to use the word “stakeholders” to describe the schoolwide community. When an educator hears the word, “stakeholder,” they might hear something negative, and they might hear undertones or overtones that involve profit. Because ‘staking a claim’ asserts one’s right or possession to something, the word can create alternative connotations. Additionally, the word “stake” has a second definition, “a sum of money or something else of value gambled on the outcome of a risky game or venture,” and that definition does not fit our public school model.

So, the word has come to have a negative connotation. Regardless, whether one is in agreement or not, the question remains: Who are the stakeholders?

A new, 21st century narrative must replace the old narrative. Public schools should no longer  The new narrative requires that our conversation involve a few more words. The first, and most important, being “public.” For the purposes of the text that is being written for CTA’s Institute for Teaching, writers are anchored in three words: public school education.

Under the umbrella of a public school education, teachers must consider “schoolwide relations” to include, but not be limited, to the following:

State government officials, state taxpayers, citizens of the state, school board members, district officials, teachers…and who else?

Some public school teachers have coined their own words to describe the schoolwide community, “the tribe” or “the village” being a few.

Troubled Teens Blossom in Strength-based Program With Caring Adults By Jennifer Gauthier 

Oprah Winfrey’s book, “What I Know For Sure,” comes to my mind often when I look at what life has presented me with and what I face each day. I often ask myself what do I know for sure about girls involved in our juvenile justice system.

What I know is that our girls today are scared and often lack the guidance of a caring adult. It is my experience that many girls who come into contact with the juvenile justice system have experienced some form of trauma, mental health diagnosis, substance abuse and the absence of a caring adult in their lives.

Today’s generation has a culture of allowing social media to guide our youth’s footsteps. They lack the opportunity to interact with a caring neighbor, teacher, church youth group or simply a nonjudgmental person. We have forgotten how to love our young ladies, and they are left to turn to social media such as Instagram, Facebook and SnapChat for approval.

Our young ladies are exposing themselves in a dangerous and vulnerable way just for a “like,” “view” or “thumbs up.” We have allowed social media to provide temporary relief for their pain and feeling of abandonment way too often. We have fewer and fewer positive venues for our young ladies, so the desire to reach out to their peers for acceptance will repeat whether they get a positive or negative response.

Lead4Life, Inc. in Maryland provides community-based gender-specific programming for girls who are involved with the juvenile justice system or are at risk of being placed out of their homes due to negative behaviors displayed in the community, school and home. Time and time again these girls start the program not having a voice, feeling insufficient, assuming no one will understand what they are going through and, most disturbing, feeling completely alone. Throughout the program, we are able to see these girls blossom.

Lead4Life uses a strength-based, Positive Youth Development (PYD) and restorative practice approach. Besides providing a safe program structure, topics that address daily life practices and a special dinner, we provide the group with caring adults. Through the strength-based model, we make sure that we acknowledge every positive decision, action or response they make. It can be as simple as arriving to school on time, helping a stranger or providing support to a peer. Continue reading. 

Human kindness is everywhere: You just have to look for it.

Kate McClure was on her way to Philadelphia when she met Johnny Bobbitt Jr. He is a homeless man. But at that moment, she was the one in need of help.

The ensuing act of kindness would soon lead to a second chance for a 34-year-old man who has been living on the streets for a year and a half. 

McClure ran out of gas while driving on Interstate 95 last month. She stopped at the nearest exit ramp, her heart pounding as she got out of the car to find a gas station, she said. Then she met Bobbitt, who was sitting on the side of the road near the exit ramp holding a sign.

Our strengths are often hidden.  One of the reasons is we spend more time focusing on weaknesses.  Whatever the reason, sometimes all that’s necessary is to create opportunities for success.  All students need this opportunity and sometimes the only people that can do this are teachers.  Money and programs are certainly needed but it is that one person – a teacher – that often makes the difference.  

“He saw me pull over and knew something was wrong,” McClure recalled. “He told me to get back in the car and lock the doors.”   

McClure said Bobbitt walked to a gas station and came back with a can filled with gas. He had spent $20 — the only money he had — to buy it.  Continue reading.

Strength-Based Mentoring: Nurturing children and youth to help them thrive!

What enables some children and youth to do well in life, to successfully navigate life’s challenges and to feel hopeful about the future in spite of adversity, while others are over-whelmed or uncertain? Research has determined that the one clear difference between these two categories of young people is the presence of a significant mentoring or supportive adult influence in their lives that enhances their strengths, resources, and ability to thrive in the face of life’s inevitable challenges.   


Mentoring is a long-term relationship where the focus is on supporting the growth and development of the mentee; the mentor encourages responsibility, accountability, and independence.  The mentor is a source of wisdom, teaching, and support. 


A mentor takes a long-range view on growth and development.

A mentor emphasizes a future orientation.

A mentor offers encouragement and cheerleading, but not “how to” advice.

Every school community has people who are ready to be mentors.  They just need to be asked.  Continue reading.