An initiative known as the Forsyth County School Justice Partnership is working to prevent students from entering the juvenile justice system. 

One strategy the group has to limit law enforcement involvement for misbehavior at school is to get students connected to local programs early on that could change their trajectory. 

During the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council meeting on Aug. 1, Lori Fuller with the School Justice Partnership said the county is home to all kinds of organizations that could impact youth in positive ways.

The group's idea is to host a resource fair for school officials like assistant principals and school resource officers with information about the programs that are available. They could learn about what each organization provides, what type of children they're best suited for, and how the referral process could work. 

“Let's make these connections early. Instead of coming from juvenile justice weeks or months after something's happened … we can make them earlier,” Fuller said. “And we can make them stronger, warmer handoffs that are more likely to be successful.”

The goal is that once school officials learn about these programs, they could refer children before the misbehavior rises to a level that requires law enforcement involvement. 

At the meeting, North Carolina Department of Public Safety Chief Court Counselor Stan Clarkston said he thought making these connections was an important step.

“I think it's a really great idea to have a focused provider fair, particularly for the assistant principals and some of the SROs too because they always love to learn about that stuff,” Clarkston said. “And I know they're great supporters of that, so we appreciate it.” 

The resource fair is still in the planning stages, but Fuller said she expects it will be held in the next month or so, and then again in the future. 

“This is not a one-and-done. We hope this to be as successful as possible,” Fuller said. “We'll learn from it and see who else we need to communicate with and how we need to create those pathways so that we can all do what we're trying to achieve and get better results for our kids.”

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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