Kristin Henning


Eroding Confidentiality in Delinquency Proceedings

Kristin Henning

While scholars have engaged in considerable debate about the continued viability of confidentiality in delinquency proceedings, much of that debate has focused on the media’s First Amendment right to access those proceedings. Now, with crime prevention at the forefront of many political agendas, policymakers are reframing the confidentiality debate as a question of public safety and accountability, and juvenile records are being disseminated, both lawfully and unlawfully, to agencies and institutions responsible for the protection, supervision, and care of children. Most state legislatures have rewritten confidentiality statutes to grant multiple exceptions to general rules protecting confidentiality; some states even require law enforcement officials to notify schools when students have been arrested.

In this Article, Professor Henning examines how schools and public housing authorities obtain juvenile records and explains how these institutions may use the records to exclude children and their families from the basic benefits of education and housing. Drawing on recent research in the field of developmental psychology, Professor Henning reevaluates early assumptions about adolescents’ amenability to treatment and the impact of stigma on children and explores the practical implications of sharing records with schools and public housing authorities, questioning whether new confidentiality exceptions actually will yield the expected benefits of improved public safety. She concludes that legislators should deny public housing authorities access to juvenile records but allow schools limited access to records through a series of school liaisons. These liaisons should attempt to accommodate, on a case-by-case basis, the often competing values of preserving safety in schools while enabling the rehabilitation of children in the juvenile justice system.