CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — The Carl Junction School District recently added a new member to its high school staff in an effort to provide additional safeguards and strengthen relationships for its at-risk students.
Kalleigh Richardson is an on-campus juvenile officer at Carl Junction High School, where she works with students who are currently receiving services from the Jasper County Juvenile Office, including diversion court or truancy programs. She formerly handled intake for the school district at the juvenile office for three years and started her new position on Jan. 6.
“We figured it’s a better use of our time to be here on campus and working with the administrators, school resource officers and the kids where they’re most comfortable,” she said. “Everyone has welcomed me and given me everything that I need.”
Richardson, a Webb City native, received her associate degree from Crowder College and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Missouri Southern State University. As a juvenile officer, she will receive all of the truancy referrals and behavioral referrals from the school, as well as community police reports.
“It’s going to be beneficial for the school and the families,” said Richardson. “When we were at Joplin, we’d have a parent come get the kid, and they’d either miss an hour or so of school to drive there and come back, whereas now, we can meet with the parents, pull the kid from class for a few minutes and then they can go back.”
The new position is part of an agreement with the Carl Junction Board of Education, Jasper County Juvenile Office and the Carl Junction Police Department. Board members unanimously approved the agreement during a regular meeting Nov. 18.
Richardson said it can be difficult to get to know students when they’re just meeting with their juvenile officer for an hour in Joplin, but having a presence in the school has made things much easier.
“We get to see the students in their setting and provide them with the needs we wouldn’t necessarily figure out in just an hourlong meeting,” she said. “I think that’s the most beneficial aspect of this.”
Juvenile Court partnership
Carl Junction is the most recent school district to join in the partnership with the Jasper County Juvenile Court following Joplin, Webb City and Carthage.
“We began this program in Joplin on Oct. 1, 2018,” said Erik Theis, Jasper County court administrator.
The program was expanded to Carthage and Webb City in 2019 and now to Carl Junction, he said.
Theis said the idea was first piloted at the Joplin School District with the intent of having a juvenile officer housed at the schools to allow for better communication and the ability to quickly resolve issues. He also believes it will help keep students in school and out of the juvenile justice system.
“It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” he said. “By working together collaboratively with school administration, school resource officers and law enforcement, we will be able to quickly identify issues at the school and intervene a lot faster than the normal process.”
Richardson will work with the school district’s wellness committee to start an anti-vaping educational program, which could be implemented as early as next quarter. If a student gets caught vaping on school grounds, he receives three days of out of school suspension.
“Rather than a three-day suspension, we’re looking at giving the parents the option to have the student come to a one-day in-school suspension where they learn about the dangers of vaping,” said Richardson. “This isn’t completely official yet, but if that doesn’t work, we might refer them to the more intense program at the Jasper County Juvenile Office.”
What is a juvenile officer?
Juvenile officers have authority over any matters revolving around a youth, who is 16 years old or younger, and deal with three areas: status offenses, delinquency, and child abuse and neglect cases, according to Erik Theis, Jasper County court administrator.