Press Release: Councilmember Robert White Announces ‘Safer Today, Safer Tomorrow’ Package of Bills to Prevent Youth Violence

WASHINGTON, DC (February 27, 2024) –Today, Councilmember White introduced the Safer Today, Safer Tomorrow slate of bills focused on preventing youth violence and keeping DC’s young people safe. These bills are crime prevention measures. They speak directly to the realities that youth in DC are facing today. Many young people are looking for safer ways to earn money and start careers, but not finding those opportunities. And many do not have adults in their lives who can be that parental figure to support them through difficult times and choices.

“With an historic expansion of vocational education to get young people into lucrative careers, I’m responding to what young people keep telling me: that they don’t have opportunities and need to make money,” Councilmember White said. “And by getting hundreds of mentors into young people’s lives, we fill a wide void that young people have identified: a lack of guidance and help that has been missing for this new generation.”

Safer Today, Safer Tomorrow includes three bills:

  • The Vocational Education for a New Generation Act of 2024. This bill substantially expands career and technical education so that every student who wants it has access to a vocational or trade pathway. It requires any program that receives funding through a new local fund from DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to result in an industry certification so that students can go straight to the job market after high school if they so choose. The bill also ensures that vocational education programs funded through this OSSE fund are available to adult learners who have already left high school.
  • The Youth Mentorship Through Community Engagement Act of 2024. This bill establishes a professional mentorship program for youth under 18 who have faced adverse childhood experiences (or ACEs), expanding the ranks of caring adults who can make an impact on the District’s young people. Through this program, youth are paired with a paid, professional mentor, who they meet with for at least three hours each week. Mentors will be in close touch with the youth’s family, and the goal is for mentor and mentee to work together for a minimum of three years, or until high school graduation. A second component of this bill is establishing community service leave for District government employees in order to further increase the pool of mentors for all DC youth.
  • The Truancy Reduction for Student Success Act of 2024. This bill requires OSSE to increase student attendance reporting and start to post data monthly by school on their website. Currently, OSSE does a truancy report once a year after the school year is over, which is too late for intervention. Chronic truancy is a risk factor for involvement in the criminal justice system. Strong school attendance is associated with better reading scores and improved graduation rates. This legislation will allow schools to intervene with struggling students sooner to offer them support and head off potential crime before it happens.

“Ending crime and violence in the District requires a strategy that includes both accountability and prevention,” Councilmember White said. “I spoke with students and young people as I developed the bills I’m introducing today, and this legislation responds directly to what they said would keep them safe and on the right path. So often we talk about youth without ever talking to them. Ultimately, young people want what everyone in this city wants: to feel safe and to know they have a promising future.”

Safer Today, Safer Tomorrow builds on Councilmember White’s Whole Government Response to Crime Act, introduced in October, which focuses on crime response.

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