New law helps teens in juvenile detention continue their education

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – Thanks to a new state law, it’s now easier for teens locked up in juvenile detention to keep up on their education.

Just because the heavy doors shut, learning doesn’t stop inside the Hamilton County Juvenile Services Center.

“We really care for these children,” Hamilton County Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush explained Tuesday. “We want them to continue a productive life. I think education is a huge piece of that.”

That is why, for the last 13 years, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office has worked with Noblesville Schools to get locked up teens laptops and their classwork via email.

“It comes in daily,” Kija Ireland, Hamilton County Juvenile Services Director said. “The teachers can upload it as the kids complete tasks. Then they can continue to upload things, login and do their work.”

“For 13 years, we’ve had a full-time teacher, a social worker, and a part-time assistant here on staff at the facility,” Quakenbush said. “They’re an employee of Noblesville Schools.”

Under a new state law that took effect July 1, if a child’s parent or the facility asks for it, a school corporation must send over materials for the grade level or courses the child would be enrolled in if he or she was not in juvenile detention.

“They would deliver those materials once a week, so they wouldn’t have to deliver it every day,” State Senator Mike Bohacek, a Republican from Michiana Shores said. “There would be sufficient time for the student to get the materials, complete them, and get them returned back to the teacher.”

Sheriff Quakenbush said most juvenile detention centers statewide already have a program like this in place.

“The state statute now gives a little more teeth to the rule, if you will, in case there were ever any issues,” Sheriff Quakenbush noted.

Sheriff Quakenbush and Ireland both said they hope teens who come through detention center classrooms see this law as a way out.

“In some cases, it is,” Sheriff Quakenbush said. “Depending on the background of the child or what crime they committed, this could be very instrumental in them being successful in the future.”

That success could spring from the pages of a textbook, or a laptop screen.

“I think they could see a lot of benefit in it once they realize we’re on their side and we are there to support them.” Ireland said.

The state law says the school district is responsible for paying for preparation and delivery of the school materials.