Sigma Beta Xi, Inc. v. County of Riverside is a class action lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the Youth Accountability Team ("YAT") program, a juvenile diversion program run by Riverside County.
In the lawsuit, we raised numerous concerns over the penalties imposed on children accused of certain actions like school misbehavior. We also alleged that the YAT program had placed thousands of children on onerous YAT probation contracts on the basis of common teenage behavior, such as refusing to obey the directions of school authorities, talking back, skipping school, and other non-criminal behavior.
We argued the YAT program violated children's due process rights by failing to give them adequate notice of their rights and failing to provide them with counsel. The program imposed intrusive and unconstitutional contract terms that allowed officers to search children in violation of their rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and imposed supervision conditions that restricted their expressive and associational rights. We also argued that YAT's referral practices led to racial disparities.
On July 24, 2019, we agreed to a settlement with Riverside County that will implement comprehensive systemic reform to YAT and provide additional supports for Riverside youth. Specifically, the parties entered into a settlement agreement that:
- Includes the following protections for all youth referred to the YAT program for status offenses of truancy or “incorrigibility” under Welfare & Institutions Code Section 601 (WIC 601):
- Removes probation officers stationed in Riverside County schools;
- Eliminates youth referrals to YAT for WIC 601 offenses;
- Provides that youth alleged to have committed WIC 601 offenses will be referred to community-based organizations for voluntary services, if they want them; and
- Expunges probation files for youth previously in the YAT program for WIC 601 offenses.
- Includes the following protections for all other youth referred to the YAT program for offenses under Welfare & Institutions Code Section 602:
- For the first time in the country, provides appointed counsel through the Public Defender for youth referred to an informal probation diversion program;
- Eliminates conditions in YAT contracts that violate youth’s First and Fourth Amendment rights;
- Requires probation contracts in the YAT program to be individualized rather than having an automatic checklist of onerous conditions that set youth up to fail;
- Requires Probation to set out positive supports for youth in their probation contracts;
- Makes the initial notice to youth who are referred to the program, and their families, far more robust; and
- Places the onus on Probation and the youth’s appointed counsel to ensure the youth’s probation file is sealed or expunged as required by law.
- Requires new comprehensive training in youth development and best practices for all YAT probation officers by two experts (Scott MacDonald and Naomi Goldstein) for 5 years;
- Provides monitoring by our Scott MacDonald and Naomi Goldstein and continuing jurisdiction by the District Court for 5 years;
- Provides $7 million for community-based organizations to provide services to youth;
- Changes to the composition of the Riverside County Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council (JJCC), which oversees the YAT program to:
- Ensure 45% of the JJCC members will be community representatives; and
- Requires organizational plaintiff, Sigma Beta Xi, Inc., to be appointed to the JJCC for 2 years;
- Requires probation to collect data and submit publicly-available reports to the JJCC on racial disproportionalities in the YAT program and its plan to address them.
Read the full settlement agreement by scrolling down this page or downloading the PDF