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Parents: We don't want juvenile offenders in our schools

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 13 2014 05:02:10 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 13 2014 07:08:43 PM CDT

Some parents in Jim Thorpe are concerned for their children after learning they may be sharing a classroom with juvenile criminals.

JIM THORPE, Pa. -

Some parents in Jim Thorpe are concerned for their children after learning they may be sharing a classroom with juvenile criminals.

It could happen, if a juvenile detention facility closes its school.

State law requires that school districts educate juvenile offenders in their district.

Parents know the detention facility is in Carbon County, but say they don't want the offenders in the classroom.

Youth Services Agency has been in operation over ten years off Route 903 in Penn Forest Township, Carbon County.

It houses and educates juvenile criminals, ages 14 to 21.

"I worry that my children would be exposed to things that I'm not ready to have them exposed to," said concerned parent Kathy Schwartz.

Real fears from Schwartz after finding out that funding concerns may force YSA to send up to 30 students to Jim Thorpe Area High School next year.

"They're there because they have committed felonies, basically," added Schwartz. "They've committed crimes on the scale of either robbery, armed robbery, drug dealing, larceny."

YSA says none of the juveniles in the Penn Forest location have committed serious or violent offenses.

"It is the law that the school district where the facilities are educated would be responsible for the education of those students," said Barbara Conway, superintendent of the Jim Thorpe Area School District.

Conway says the district is not going to break the law.

"Everybody has to be done on an individual basis," added Conway. "We can't not discriminate against students based on their placement or their place of residence."

In a written statement from Youth Services Agency officials, the company says for ten years it's provided the education for the juveniles at the facility, and has been doing it with only state funds.

The statement reads, "We simply ask the district to provide support more equal to what it spends for similar students through a contract with YSA to operate our school on site."

"I can't get into the minutia of our discussions with any organization," said Conway. "I just can't do that."

If the YSA school closes, the district will be responsible for educating the students in the 2014 - '15 school year.

"There is obviously money on the line," said Schwartz. "Everything always boils down to money."

An informational session for parents will be Monday at 6 p.m. in the high school auditorium.