Safe Schools Initiatives
Community Based Justice Program
The school-based CBJ programs bring together school personnel, public safety professionals, and social service providers in each community. CBJ meetings are convened by a member of the District Attorney's Office and provide a forum to share information about court-involved students, or those who might become court involved. The purpose of the meetings is to devise proactive ways to intervene in the lives of those youth and help steer them away from crime and violence. CBJ meetings have become a national model for violence prevention in our schools.
The Northwestern District Attorney's Office consults with schools seeking to develop the best bullying prevention strategies tailored to their unique environments. Please contact Jana McClure, the NWDA's Director of Outreach and Education, at (413) 586-9225 ext. 135, for more information.
Truancy Diversion/School is Where it's At (SIWIA)
Truancy is a problem that has long-term effect on children, families and the community. The recognition of the significant correlation between a failed school experience and delinquent behavior has been well documented. The "School is Where It's At" program is a two-step process involving progressively stronger measures to compel students, ages 6 to 16, and their parents to address the problem in a positive manner.
The SIWIA program was developed to send the consistent message that education, personal responsibility and respoect for the law are important values in the Northwestern District. The District Attorney assists schools interested in creating or enhancing their attendance or anti-truancy program.
Juvenile Court Delinquency and Prevention Unit
The Juvenile Court Delinquency and Prevention Unit aims to reduce youth violence and crime using a coordinated community approach which includes early intervention and prevention. In addition, the unit handles serious juvenile delinquents who are indicted as Youthful Offenders, thus making them subject to full adult criminal prosecution. The unit includes prosecutors, a diversion/truancy specialist and several victim-witness advocates.
The unit’s goal is to balance legal work in the form of prosecution of persons under age 17, with school and community-based prevention efforts. To carry out these goals the unit offers the following Juvenile Justice programs:
Juvenile Diversion Program
When appropriate, first time offenders under age 17 who commit minor criminal offenses will be referred to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Juvenile Diversion Program. The program is an alternative to the court system. Participating youth are assessed on an individual basis and may be required to attend and complete counseling/education programs, perform community service and, when applicable, pay restitution. Youth who successfully complete the Juvenile Diversion Program prior to arraignment, will have no court record. Cases not appropriate for diversion will be prosecuted through the Juvenile Court.
Safe School Response Team
The new Massachusetts bullying law offers a definition of bullying, but as victims, educators and parents have learned, there is no specific criminal charge of bullying. Bullying behavior does fit specific criminal charges already in existence, however, such as Threat to Commit a Crime, Criminal Harassment, civil rights violations, and others.
Therefore, the NWDA developed a team of prosecutors, and victim-advocates to review certain complaints of bullying to determine if the behavior rises to the level of a criminal charge. The team is not a substitute for school investigations. Schools must still follow their own-state mandated policies as to bullying complaints and investigations. However, the NWDA team can help review that work and in addition, can provide information and support for parents and victims.
Members of the Safe School Response Team include Deputy District Attorney Janice Healy, Juvenile Justice Unit Chief Yvonne Pesce and Assistant District Attorneys Caitlyn Rock and Liz Mulcahy.