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Schools, county join effort to keep misdemeanor juvenile offenders in school

Oct 2, 2012 - By Christina George and Katie Roenigk, Staff Writers

The Fremont County Attorney's Office and other local agencies are teaming up with area school districts to offer educational services for juveniles arrested for misdemeanor offenses.

Officials said the agreement with school districts would continue educational components for juvenile offenders by creating a "day-reporting" program at the Riverton and Lander group homes. Fremont County School District 25 has taken charge of planning for the program, which was verbally accepted by all eight districts involved during a meeting in September, according to Riverton superintendent Terry Snyder.

"We gave them a proposal on how we might be able to provide services, and that was well-received," Snyder said. "We also presented to them how the financial piece can be designed."

He said each district will pay an initial $6,400 to fund the project, through which one Riverton-based teacher would work half-days at each of the two group homes. When a teacher is not at the site, officials said students will do community service.

Snyder said costs for long-term operation would be paid by districts depending on usage.

"This is a real cooperative effort," Snyder said. "Our objective is to continue quality educational programming for these kids. Every district wants to be part of that."

Students who won't be at the day-reporting center long will continue learning based on their district's curriculum, Snyder said, while those who are likely to stay for a longer period of time will enroll in online classes.

Fremont County Attorney Brian Varn said his office, with the help of probation officers, would supervise the program, which initially will only be available to six students at each group home. There are plans for future expansion, however, and some officials would like to broaden services to students who face expulsion from school.

Cooperative work

Varn said several other local groups are involved in the educational endeavor as well, including Fremont County Youth Services, the Wyoming Department of Family Services, the Fremont County Attorney/Day Reporting Center and all Fremont County school districts, with the exception of Dubois. Varn said Dubois's location makes it difficult for the district to be involved.

At Fremont County School District 14 (Wyoming Indian), superintendent Michelle Hoffman expressed confidence that local officials would succeed in creating a program through which students facing misdemeanors wouldn't fall behind in school.

"If anybody can make it work, Fremont County can make it work," Hoffman said. "Keeping them out of jail and continuing to educate them, that is beneficial to students and beneficial to the school districts, and I think we have an excellent start on it."

In the past, youthful offenders incarcerated at the Fremont County Detention Center have received educational services from Lander school personnel, with 99 students served in 2010-11 -- down from 113 in 2009-10 and 120 in 2008-09. In 2011-12, the group of 70 students who received instruction at the center included 20 from Riverton, 10 from Wyoming Indian, nine from Lander, four from Arapahoe, three from Fort Washakie and two from St. Stephen's.

Earlier this year, however, the juvenile section of the Fremont County Detention Center in Lander was closed. Since then, youthful offenders who committed minor offenses have been housed at the youth homes in Lander and Riverton.

Minors who commit felonies or serious crimes are taken to facilities in Natrona or Sweetwater counties.

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