A unique San Francisco Public Defender program that keeps young people in the classroom rather than the courtroom has been selected as a 2014 Public Managerial Excellence Award winner by the civic planning organization SPUR.
The Legal Educational Advocacy Team (LEAP) will be honored Tuesday, March 11 by Mayor Ed Lee, past San Francisco mayors and SPUR officials at the 34th annual Good Government Awards. The 5:30 p.m. ceremony will be held at San Francisco City Hall’s North Light Court. The awards, sponsored by SPUR’s Municipal Fiscal Advisory Committee (MFAC), recognize managers or teams working for the City and County of San Francisco who display extraordinary leadership, vision and ability to make a difference both within city government and the community at large.
LEAP was selected for improving educational outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system. The team —Juvenile Unit Attorney Manager Patricia Lee, Social Worker Marynella Woods, Education Attorney Lauren Brady Blalock and Youth Advocate Marc Babus — works directly with San Francisco youth, makes regular court appearances on behalf of young clients and trains parents and caregivers to advocate effectively for their children. Of the youth who have gone through the program, fewer than 13 percent reoffend six to 12 months after exiting. The 3-year old program, funded through a federal grant, continues to work toward the greater goal of reducing the disproportionate number of youth of color in the justice system overall.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said his office started LEAP after seeing juvenile clients drop out of school—dramatically diminishing their chances of success as adults.
The LEAP attorney works with the school district to provide services to struggling students such as special education classes, tutoring or counseling. LEAP provides ongoing support to the child to while helping parents understand their rights and to navigate the complex public school system.
“We are extremely gratified to have our groundbreaking LEAP team recognized,” said Adachi. “We know there is a link between education and crime. The LEAP program ensures that a young person who is in the juvenile justice system returns to school with the services needed to succeed and that students are not unfairly expelled or suspended without cause.”
Additional 2014 award winners include Douglass Legg of the Department of Public Works; Zoon Nguyen of the Office of the Assessor-Recorder; Lisa Wayne of the Recreation and Parks Department; and the Rim Fire Emergency Response Team, part of the SF Public Utilities Commission.
For more information or for tickets, go to spur.org/ggawards