By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
DANVILLE — While six youths held in Montour County Jail in September refused educational services, the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit billed the Danville Area School District $600 for administrative costs incurred in sending staff to interview the teens and complete paperwork.
Although education is mandatory for youths ages 16 and younger who are arrested and held in a correctional facility, those 17 or older can decline classes, as was the case in September.
The CSIU would charge the Danville district a higher amount if those students chose to enroll in an educational program, said Julie Shumaker, overseer of the CSIU’s incarcerated youth program.
The six youths held in September were from Montour County, New Jersey, the Central Columbia School District, the Line Mountain School District, Schuylkill County and the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School.
Those who are too young to be held at the Montour County Jail are transported to facilities outside of the CSIU’s jurisdiction, Shumaker said. Under a contract with the Danville district, the CSIU is responsible for providing educational services to youths arrested in Montour County and held in the Montour County Jail.
Under Department of Education guidelines, youths up to age 20 can request educational services from a provider such as the CSIU, Shumaker said.
In some cases this age can go up to 21, depending on when the youth was born, the academic year in which he was in school or whether he has an individualized education plan.
The Montour County prison board says there are no juveniles at the lockup.
The CSIU is educating an 18- or 19-year-old at the jail, Shumaker said. Previous youths requesting education in Montour County Jail may have been 17, but none were 16 or younger, Shumaker said.
“They have kids there who are 18 and 19 years old. They don’t usually have the younger students,” Shumaker said.
When any youth is arrested in Montour County, he is interviewed, typically at the Montour County Jail, by the CSIU to set up incarceration education plans. The final site of their incarceration is decided ahead of a time by a judge depending on the youth’s age. Children arrested and aged 16 and younger receive mandatory education, while those aged 17 or older can decline the service.
Youths can earn a GED or high school diploma through the program or credit that can be transferred if they are moved to another facility.
Costs incurred by the Danville district vary upon how many youths are incarcerated in a given month and how many request educational services.
Shumaker and Dr. Kevin Singer, the CSIU’s executive director, reviewed some of this information with the school board at their Nov. 12 meeting. Board president Allan Schappert said the board will likely discuss the matter again when their contract with CSIU comes up near the end of the school year.
The CSIU also has contracts with school districts in Columbia, Snyder, Union and Northumberland counties. The percentage of the students who choose to enroll in the educational program is low.
Last year, the CSIU interviewed 284 students in all five counties. Out of them, only nine passed the exam to earn their GED and none earned a high school diploma, Shumaker said.
So far this year, 35 students across the five counties have received educational services. How far a student progresses in the program is also dependent on how long they stay in prison.