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May 2, 2012
Judicial College, Juvenile Judges Develop New Curriculum

The Supreme Court of Ohio Judicial College has developed a new juvenile court curriculum for judges in partnership with the Ohio Association of Juvenile Court Judges.

The three-year effort began after Jackson County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Stephen D. Michael, who was serving as president of the association at the time, approached the Judicial College about the need for a new curriculum.

Christy Tull, Judicial College manager of curriculum development, said Ohio is on the leading edge among a handful of states that are using a curriculum – an overarching educational plan – as a guide in developing courses rather than individually planning courses.

“By using this approach we can ensure that learning occurs in an intentional and comprehensive way,” Tull said. “Over time, we found that there could be gaps in the knowledge presented because there was no deliberate set of identified needs and plan. We also discovered the importance of memorializing good course content so we weren’t re-creating information or relying on individual instructors to remember what was and what wasn’t presented from year to year.”

Judges and magistrates attended the first course in the curriculum “Abuse, Neglect and Dependency 101” in March. Tull called the course an “entry level experience,” yet many long-time judges and magistrates found the review helpful, according to their evaluations.

“This course covers the fundamentals of legal and procedural matters, but also broaches other essential components such as effective demeanor and disposition,” Tull said. “The dependency docket, the safety and wellbeing of children and potential for termination of parental rights weighs heavily on every judicial officer. Therefore, the opportunity to go back to the basics proves beneficial to all.”

Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge Anthony Capizzi served as chair of the committee that developed the curriculum and currently serves as one of the faculty for the course.

“I’m a big believer in the importance of education at both the local and national levels,” Judge Capizzi said. “There is so much for new juvenile judges to learn and for longtime judges to know that sustained, consistent curriculum that covers the same topics year after year is not only beneficial but necessary.”

As part of the curriculum design process, a comprehensive needs assessment identified six competency areas to be developed. While the Ohio judges ranked the abuse, neglect and dependency competency area as the first to be created, the following five curriculum designs are under development and will result in courses in coming months and years: delinquency and unruly docket, paternity/custody/child support docket, traffic docket, administrative duties, community outreach duties and miscellaneous duties.

The juvenile judges’ curriculum is just a start, Tull said. Curriculum for other jurisdictions and court professionals that are in the works include appellate court judges, municipal court judges, guardians ad litem and probation officers.