Durham County Family Court and Durham Public Schools
WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 19, 2004 – The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Substance Abuse today announced that the 14 Judicial District Family Court in Durham, N.C., and the Durham Public Schools have been chosen to receive the ABA-Scripps Howard Foundation Distinguished Service to Literacy Award for the work of their truancy court. The award, made possible by a grant given from the Scripps Howard Foundation, honors an outstanding program, bar association, or lawyer for exceptional efforts in addressing literacy, truancy, and substance abuse. It will be presented to the family court and Durham Public Schools on Feb. 25 at the Durham County Judicial Building Annex.
The family court and Durham Public Schools are being honored for their lasting impact on the development and implementation of the Truancy Court. Durham was one of the first pilot family courts in North Carolina. Spearheaded by Judge Ann McKown in 2000, Durham County continued its trailblazing by opening the first truancy court in North Carolina. As a result, Durham was a guiding light for truancy court development in many other North Carolina family court districts.
“The ABA Standing Committee on Substance Abuse has long recognized the importance of being proactive in dealing with those precipitating events that often lead to substance abuse, especially in children and young adults. Certainly, truancy is one such area,” said Barbara Howard, standing committee chair. “We have found that effective programming through the use of truancy courts can mean the difference in whether a student steers clear of the attraction of drugs or alcohol.”
McKown took up this crusade after attending an ABA Family Court Summit in 1999. She returned to Durham determined to see truancy court become a reality in a community known for its youthful offenders. With steadfast commitment and determination from Chief District Court Judge Elaine O’Neal and judges Richard Chaney, Marcia Morey and Craig Brown, they caught the attention of other family court districts and started the trend of truancy court as a standard component of family courts in North Carolina.
The ABA Standing Committee on Substance Abuse was originally created in 1990 as the Special Committee on the Drug Crisis to address programs and policies regarding illegal drug use. Since then, the committee has focused its efforts on programs and policies that offer long-term solutions to the nation’s drug problems – alternatives to incarceration, such as drug courts; treatment services for drug-dependent persons processed through the criminal justice system; treatment in lieu of criminal prosecution in appropriate cases; and education, prevention, and treatment programs, especially for children and young people.
The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership association in the world. With more than 400,000 members, the ABA provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.