Fewer Bibb County students will face criminal charges for minor offenses when a new program is implemented Aug. 1.
Students who get in trouble for offenses such as fighting in a public place, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and theft would be referred to a program for help instead of going to court.
Since offenses will be handled outside of court, students will not obtain a criminal record.
Those who commit more serious offenses, including crimes against staff and damage to school property, would not be eligible for the program.
“The point of this agreement is to get students who have acted out the help that they need ... so that they can go ahead and begin healing and taking care of whatever issue they have and so that they don’t go on to become a criminal adult,” Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke said after the Tuesday signing of the Macon-Bibb County School-Justice Partnership Agreement.
Students in Bibb County schools faced 212 criminal charges between Aug. 1, 2017, and March 31, 2018, according to a Telegraph analysis earlier this year. Not all of those offenses would qualify for the program.
But at least the top three offenses during that time period — fighting in a public place, disorderly conduct and simple battery — would. Students faced 93 charges related to those three offenses during that time frame, The Telegraph analysis of school system data showed.
School resource officers will have the power to refer offending students to counseling, mediation, community workshops, community programs and community service. Before, offenders would not get services such as those until they were in juvenile court, and once treated, the case would be dismissed.
“This way we go ahead and screen them on the front end and get them the help they need,” Cooke said.
The program is based on a model that has been in effect in Clayton County since 2003. Between the inception of the program and 2015, juvenile crime rates decreased by nearly 71 percent, said Colin Slay, director of juvenile court programs and resource development for Clayton County.
In addition, the graduation rate increased by 34 percent to 78 percent in 2015, he said. Bibb County’s graduation rate was 77 percent in 2017.
The program starts with the individual, but the hope is its will impact the entire school system.
“You’re talking about changing students’ behaviors and the way they look at their own lives,” said Jamie Cassady, Bibb County schools assistant superintendent of student affairs. “Then what we’re looking for is higher attendance, higher graduation rate, change in the culture and climate of the schools.”
Students who get in trouble for the following offenses would be referred to a program for help, rather than go to court, under the Macon-Bibb County School-Justice Partnership Agreement.
Affray (fighting in a public place)
Disrupting a public school
Possession of alcohol
Possession of cigarettes
Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana