There are a lot of attorneys looking to bolster their reputation. At the same time, there are a lot of young people who need guidance from just such professionals to motivate them to attend school and do what it takes to be successful. The District Court Truancy Diversion Program (TDP) is a match made in heaven for these two groups. The lawyers get to do positive work and the benefit of experience and as volunteer judges; and the students get guidance from professionals that could mean the difference between a life of success and a life behind bars.

Today, Family Division Judge Jennifer Elliot kicked-off the TDP program with a meeting with the volunteer judges to exchange ideas on what works to get students to understand the importance of their education and how to address challenges as they arise. Many of the students face basic problems that seem insurmountable to them due to a lack of communications skills, resources or fear. Representatives from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges attended to get ideas to share nationally.

The Truancy Diversion Project (TDP) aimed at improving student school attendance and success in classes currently has around 69 volunteers. A lot more are needed to meet the goal to get the program at every school. Clark County reported nearly 120,000 truant children for school-year 2013-2014.Those without a high school diploma face higher prospects of unemployment and the associated negative consequences. This collaborative effort between the CCSD has been structured to prevent and reduce youth crime, re-engage students in learning, and ultimately, reduce potential costs to our welfare and justice systems. It is a non-punitive, incentive-based approach to at-risk school students with truancy problems. A team (judge, family advocate, school personnel) works with the students and their families.

Judges, attorneys and other qualified applicants volunteering approximately three hours each week to and hold truancy court sessions at schools where they meeting individually with students and their parents. They review the students’ attendance, school work, and progress to ensure that students have the resources they need to be successful. The TDP judges promote and support academic achievement using a team effort and an individual student success plan. Since 2007, the TDP has expanded from six to 70 schools including elementary, middle schools and high schools. The goal of the Eighth Judicial District Court Family Division is to continue to expand until all 358 Clark County schools have a TDP program. In 2014, the TDP was one of four programs in the nation to receive a $600,000 grant from the Department of Justice designed to keep kids in school and out of court.

If you are a licensed attorney, mental health professional or law enforcement officer and are interested in volunteering as a TDP judge for this Specialty Court program please contact DeDe Parker at: 702-321-2410.