Center's report on troubled teens wins prestigious Tobenkin Award

Columbia Journalism School prize honors 'Throwaway Kids' series

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A Center for Public Integrity probe detailing how California schools were failing troubled teenagers has been awarded the prestigious 2014 Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award.

The prize, given by Columbia Journalism School, recognizes “outstanding achievements in reporting on racial or religious hatred, intolerance or discrimination.” The winning series, “Throwaway Kids,” was written by Center reporter Susan Ferriss. Her stories described how disciplined teens were assigned to “alternative” schools miles away that they had no way of getting to — leaving them no recourse other than essentially educating themselves through loosely defined “independent study” programs.

Jurors noted that the stories written by Ferriss “galvanized immigrant parents to confront the school system. California legislators are now discussing a legal fix for the problem.”

The award was established in 1959 at Columbia Journalism School to honor New York Herald Tribune reporter Paul Tobenkin. Ferriss will speak May 20 on Journalism Day at the school and receive a citation and a $1,500 honorarium.

The Tobenkin prize marks the second citation for “Throwaway Kids.” The series also was awarded a third prize in the National Awards for Education Reporting, given by the Education Writers Association. Judges in that contest described Ferriss’ work as “ambitious” and “compelling.”  

Ferriss joined the Center in 2011 after covering immigration for the Sacramento Bee and working as a Mexico-City based Latin America correspondent for Cox Newspapers. 

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