North Carolina Department of Correction news release

Probation Officers in the schools

AUGUST 15, 1997

It's the start of the school year, and North Carolina probation officers are directing their young probationers toward one goal, graduation.

"We're having success. Students are staying in school and getting their education," said Pam Clement, a probation officer in Surry County. "I had six students graduate last year and three are going on to college."

The officer's attendance of graduation ceremonies, sporting events and other school functions help motivate student probationers to work hard at school. Probation officers work with educators and parents to encourage the young people to fill their time with sports and school-related programs and to avoid absenteeism, unruly behavior and associating with peers who may steer them towards trouble.

"You're trying to get them to complete their education. Usually, these youth have had problems with attendance and following rules. They're on the verge of flunking or dropping out," said Mike Davis, a probation officer in Union County. "We want them to complete school."

At each school, the officers establish a contact person, often assistant principals, guidance counselors or school resource officers. Through them, they monitor the student's attendance and behavior.

"It's important for the officer to have a good relationship with educators," said Randy Hussey, Chief Probation Officer in Moore County. "Our officers who work with the schools are actually graduates or parents who've had children in those schools. That's a real plus."

Officers seek to build a rapport with educators and parents, helping them to understand the assistance they offer and the role they play.

"I'm not a social worker or a friend," Davis said. "I'm there to see that these students comply with the conditions set down by the court."

Communication is an important part of the officer's involvement. Officers can provide school officials with factual information about the court's action in a case and advise on ways to comply with the court's orders.

"We try to keep the parents as informed as possible," said Hussey. "We invite them to our meetings with their children. We encourage them to work with school officials. Its important to have someone besides the officer concerned about the case."

Officers hold the young probationers accountable for their actions, especially those listed in the probation order. The order's conditions may carry stiff penalties. In Rowan County, a judge has issued probation orders requiring eight hours of community service work for every unexcused school absence or day missed because of suspension from school. Working with judges, officers can ask for curfews or electronic house arrest supervision to control a youth.

"Most are first-time offenders who don't have a significant criminal record," Davis said. "They're starting down the wrong road, but haven't gone far enough that they can't come back."

For students who must be removed from high school, officers seek placement in community college G.E.D. programs or in alternative schools. Officers say the most likely reasons for a youth to fail are continued association with peers who lead them into trouble and continued use of drugs or alcohol. Sending a youth to prison is a last resort when increased controls are ignored.

The North Carolina Division of Adult Probation and Parole (DAPP) began the probation officer in the schools program in Carteret County in 1993. Since its inception, the program has spread statewide building partnerships between probation officers and educators.

DAPP's Third Division under the leadership of Roselyn Powell is the first to implement the program in each county. Assistant Division Chief John Parks estimates division officers supervise about 300 student probationers. The Third Division includes Alexander, Allegheny, Anson, Ashe, Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Guilford, Forsyth, Iredell, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond, Rockingham, Rowan, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Union, Wilkes and Yadkin counties.

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