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Judge proposes sharing juvenile records with schools

GULFORT — A Harrison County youth court judge is supporting a new state law that allow school administrators access to juvenile records.

State law presently makes all files and activities in youth courts confidential.

Youth court judge Margaret Alfonso asked the board of supervisors Monday to support legislation — or a pilot program in Harrison County — to allow the court to share information about abused or neglected children.

Alfonso said the safety and welfare of children could be improved if such communication were allowed.

Alfonso said school officials cannot receive such information unless she orders the release of it. She said each case is handled individually.

Supervisors took no action on the request, opting to hear later from school superintendents.

With Alfonso as the only judge dealing with juvenile files full time and only two others stepping in as needed for the entire county, the manpower needed for dictating, typing and filing such orders simply isn’t available, Alfonso said.

That means delays in getting crucial information to schools.

“We’re making critical decisions in an information vacuum,” Alfonso said.

Gulfport Superintendent Glen East said districts are already able to obtain some information from the courts.

“On the severe stuff, the communication is already there,” he said. “I’m not interested in the courts’ minutia.”

Most superintendents, though, would likely support it, said Mississippi Association of School Superintendents Executive Director Sam Bounds.

He said he’d seen the program work successfully in several districts, though there are several legal pieces that need to be worked out.

“I can’t speak for everyone but I can’t see any superintendent not supporting the idea,” he said. “It would enhance educational opportunity and quality. If I was still a superintendent, I would like to know what things could impact my children’s learning abilities and opportunities.”

 

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