Jefferson City schools mentoring program good example for other Mid-MO schools

JCPS offers in-school mentoring for students

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - With an agenda full of ballot initiatives and tax proposals, community leaders in Columbia had plenty to discuss at a Monday morning meeting.

Members of the City of Columbia, Boone County, Columbia Public Schools, and the city's Chamber of Commerce talked about issues they each shared. 

A topic the group has discussed for the last 4 years, disproportionate minority contact, came up Monday morning.

It's a term used for when a higher percentage of a community's minority population contacts the justice system.

Jefferson City Public Schools have already done something in response to DMC, something other organizations in the state are applauding. 

Three years ago, a co-worker told Kurt Hafley his new job was posted on the wall.

The Jefferson City teacher and mentor said, "I went and looked and didn't even know it was going to happen, and I applied for it, and was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to do it."

Now, he's the head of JC Champions Mentoring, a program where Jefferson City school counselors, teachers, and sometimes parents ask their child receive in-school mentoring.

Hafley said,"Because the teacher has 25 to 30 kids in the classroom, there's not always that time to stop and have a conversation and to delve a little deeper into the things that are going on, maybe in this child's life."

Jefferson City Public Schools was one of the first groups to make changes specifically related to disproportionate minority contact in the state.

In 2011, the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association credited JC Mentoring as a way to reduce children entering the justice system.

Boone County has been working on DMC for several years, too, and is trying to make a deal with Columbia Public Schools to limit it.

Janet Thompson with Columbia Public Schools said, "When kids have to be referred, when we can say, 'No, let's divert, let's do something else so that we don't make it easier for them to end up in the system.'"

For Hafley, children ending up in the mentoring program is just the solution.

"If you only see one way of doing things, that's the way you do it. But if you have a choice, then you can make choices. So that's what I think mentoring does."

Boone County's court system and CPS are working on a memorandum of understanding to know when a child needs to be sent to detention or get access to other services.

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