More than a year after creating the Bureau of Children’s Justice, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced five investigations across the state, including examining how counties report child abuse, excessive force at juvenile detention centers, the actions of school police and school discipline practices for special education students.
At a press conference in February 2015 and in a subsequent letter to officials in California’s counties, Harris pledged to use the new office to enforce the rights of children in the state’s child-welfare and juvenile-justice systems, address elementary-school truancy and educational inequity, prevent commercial sexual exploitation of children and tackle issues related to childhood trauma.
According to a posting on its website, the bureau has launched five investigations into four jurisdictions and an educational nonprofit organization:
- Humboldt County: The bureau is looking into the way that Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services received and investigated reports of suspected child abuse and neglect over the past five years.
- Tobinworld: As part of an effort to investigate the state’s system of non-public schools that serve students with disabilities, the bureau is investigating Tobinworld, a nonprofit that runs several private special education schools in California. Allegations have centered on the use of physical restraints and isolation on students with serious emotional disturbances and severe learning disabilities at its schools.
- San Bernardino County: Prosecutors from the office are also scrutinizing allegations that social workers covered up abuse of foster youth by their parents and foster parents in San Bernardino County.
- San Diego County: The conditions in juvenile halls and camps overseen by the San Diego County Probation Department will be investigated, an issue that was first raised in a Disability Rights California report that brought to light the use of excessive force and restraints on youth, among other issues.
- Stockton Unified School District: The bureau is also investigating the school discipline policies and practices of Stockton Unified School District Police Department.
The Bureau of Children’s Justice posted information about the five ongoing investigations on a new page of its website last week. While “being the subject of an investigation does not indicate that any entity is violating or has violated the law,” the bureau is soliciting feedback and information about the investigations—“both positive and negative”—from the public through the website.