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Juvenile court school and Game Show Friday

Lauren Bishop
photo by Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group

This morning, after countless e-mails and security clearances, I finally stepped foot in a maximum security classroom at juvenile hall. It was for a story about Lauren Bishop, a 2009 Alameda County Teacher of the Year (and an Oakland Tech mom).

As I walked into Bishop’s science classroom and scanned the young faces sitting before her, I knew that most of them had been charged with a “707 B” offense: one of 23 crimes including murder, kidnapping, gang activity and discharge of a firearm.

I also learned from one of the supervisors that more than half of the boys in Unit 2 might eventually be shipped from the center to a prison — quite possibly, on their 18th birthdays.

Whatever their histories, Bishop said, she sees each kid as just that — a kid. After observing her class and interviewing a couple of the older students, I can see why. 

I noticed that they seemed quite attentive to a relatively dry review session on ionic and covalent bonds. Then they picked teams for Game Show Friday, a weekly event in which they’re quizzed on the lessons of the week. It was Thursday, their last chance to cram.

Wayne, one of Bishop’s students, told me later that it wasn’t just the chance to win Game Show Friday that made everyone so competitive, but the prize: “Candy, you know, Snickers.”

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    This is interesting, But:

    In a depression are we going to take resources and money from “normal” kids and divert them to criminal kids?

    Would they get as much education by just having the guards give them newspapers – or old “Dick and Jane” readers to look at?

    I predict with the budget cuts we have yet to see – the real cuts that will start after July 2010 and go on for 5 to 10 years beyond – we will have greatly reduced face time between workers (teachers) and the products (students). We are going to have much more automation (online classes).

    The luxury of a Lauren Bishop giving face time to students will probably be reserved for the high status students.

    And it’s not clear to me that this will result is any less education or lower test scores in reading and comprehension. It will be different and socialization will change. Since our urban school socialization tends to be anti-social anyway even this doesn’t worry me too much.

    Change we can believe in.

  • LEXUSOAKLAND

    “In a depression are we going to take resources and money from “normal” kids and divert them to criminal kids?

    Would they get as much education by just having the guards give them newspapers – or old “Dick and Jane” readers to look at?”
    ———–
    This is short sighted and uniformed. Each new “class” of criminals is effectively “schooled” by those before them. Clearly newspapers and Dick & Jane did not provide an education to these kids before they ended up in Juvenile Hall. Our choice then, is to perpetuate the status quo — let them be educated by other inmates, or capture a few through the Lauren Bishops who are willing to devote their time and effort to effect what some would consider a useless and thankless task.

  • Nextset

    Lexus: It’s not useless and it’s not thankless. All education means something. But:

    The issue is how much budget do you give jail schools and how much do you give the jail medical – and what cheaper resources do you have to maintain minimum level of results.

    We are headed to a collapse of government and the law of the jungle in our urban streets. Lets talk about it. Nothing is going to be the same and nothing in the budgets are going to be “safe”.

    With the kind of tax revenue falloff and budget shortages the state is facing don’t think that we may not have to eliminate 11th and 12th grade statewide in public schools – and even worse dramatic changes in daily life. And change seems to be coming soon and coming big.

    And to some extent it’s history repeating – but in cycles so vast that they are not within the life experience of those active today. Start reading depression diaries from 1929 to 1941 – a number of them are now being published.