Best Practices

Mayor Harriet Miller

Pro Youth Coalition

The Santa Barbara City Council has included development of positive activities and programs for youth development among Council goals since 1991. The City Council appointed a Youth Task Force to address the specific problems of at-risk youth and to strengthen existing programs and give impetus to new programs. Currently the Mayor's Office and two city departments are participating in the Pro Youth Coalition, a collaborative effort of public agencies and social service providers to develop a plan to reduce gang violence in Santa Barbara.

The city enjoys a cooperative relationship with the school district. A joint committee of representatives from the City Council and the independently elected school board meets monthly to discuss issues of concern or interest. The city and school district have worked cooperatively on a number of programs. Under a joint use agreement, the city recreation division and the school district share the cost of maintenance of some facilities and equipment so that they can be more fully and cost effectively utilized. The city sponsors a Youth Council, with representatives from each high school, to provide a forum for youth, to provide leadership training and to assure youth input in planning activities for teens. Following are two of the most recently adopted cooperative programs.

Elementary School Curriculum

In 1995, the Santa Barbara Police Department, in cooperation with the city schools, Klein Bottle Youth Services, the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse/Fighting Back, and the county probation department and the district attorney, was awarded a three-year $1.5 million grant from the California Office of Criminal Justice Planning. The education portion of the grant had four specific components: 1) divert youth from gang violence, 2) intervene and offer gang youth alternatives to gangs, 3) strengthen families, and 4) create a safe school environment.

The city reviewed other communities' school-based violence prevention efforts as background for developing an appropriate violence prevention curriculum for use throughout our school district. A pilot program was developed for two elementary schools, targeting fourth and fifth grade students. Based on the Safe Schools, Safe Streets curriculum developed by Scholastic, Inc., we designed a 15-week curriculum taught in the schools by a team of professionals, including a violence prevention specialist from Fighting Back, a probation officer, a law enforcement officer, and a representative from the court. The classes are taught one hour per week for 15 weeks. In the first 10 weeks, students learn specific skills that will give them alternatives to violence and help them make positive decisions. The final five weeks focus on providing information specific to the realities and negative aspects of gang involvement. The 15-week program gives students the information needed to resist gangs and avoid violence, and increases their ability to make positive decisions about friends and lifestyles. The city hopes to extend the program to additional elementary schools in the future.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (805) 564-5321

Daytime Loitering Ordinance

Another example of the cooperative relationship between the city and the school district is the recently adopted Daytime Loitering Ordinance. The school district has been working to reduce the number of unexcused absences among secondary school students. Students who are habitually truant can and do engage in undesirable activities. Adoption of the ordinance was supported by representatives of the school district and the juvenile court.

The Daytime Loitering Ordinance addresses the fact that unsupervised youth out of school during school hours tend to gather in public places and often get into trouble. While California State law provides certain procedures for the school district and the police to find a truant student and return the student to school, an unwilling student faces no consequence for truancy ultimately other than expulsion from school. The youth are therefore on the street and frequently become involved in criminal activities, including drug and alcohol abuse.

The adopted ordinance makes it unlawful for any minor under the age of 18, who is subject to compulsory education including continuation education, to loiter, idle, wander, or be in or upon the public streets, highways, roads, alleys, parks, playgrounds, or other public grounds, public places, public buildings, places of amusement, eating places, vacant lots or any unsupervised place during school hours on days when school is in session. The penalty for violation of this ordinance would be a fine of up to $80 or eight hours of community service, or a combination of these, at the judge's discretion. Another tool at the judge's disposal is the ability to suspend or delay the issuance of a driver's license to those failing to obey the orders of the court. State law allows the police to cite truancy as an infraction directly into juvenile traffic court.

The ordinance does not apply under certain circumstances. For example, when the student is accompanied by a parent, guardian, or other adult having care and custody of the student; the student is on an emergency errand directed by a parent or adult having care and custody of the student; the student is going or coming directly from or to their place of employment; the student is going or coming directly from or to a medical apointment; or the student has permission to leave school.

Santa Barbara's Municipal Code provisions against loitering include parental responsibility for meeting its requirements. Because violation of the ordinance is an infraction, it does not "criminalize" the young people involved, but provides a consequence that they are more likely to find meaningful. Copies of the ordinance are available on request.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (805) 564-5321

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