January 2008


So, if my parents or guardians made me sleep in a room like this

or spend all of my time lying on the floor face down like this …

they would probably get arrested, right?  Either for child abuse or neglect.

But what about if parents outsourced abusing their kids?  What if they sent thm to places where things like THIS take place?

Many who have been there describe a life of pain and fear. They say they spent 13 hours a day, for weeks or months on end, lying on their stomachs in an isolation room, their arms repeatedly twisted to the breaking point.

….

 “You could hear kids screaming when they were getting restrained,” Mr. Bucolo said. “It was horrible. They would do it behind closed doors. And say the kids were lying if they complained.”

What would you say about parents who spent $30,000 to send their kids to this place?  Or what about this one?

(more…)

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On Blogging for Choice day, the 35th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision on abortion, I wrote a post right here about anti-abortion eighth graders at a Catholic school. That post was read on the air and discussed on the Head On Radio Network, and you can hear the whole discussion here. If I’d known it was on, I would have called in!

Click to listen. Click the FREE version.

(Also, if you know how to post an audio file to wordpress, please leave me a comment! Thanks!)

I think this seems like a pretty good idea. Everyone should have rights and everyone should know their rights.  A bit surprising that the newspaper article doesn’t actually say what the rights are.  What do you think?

Texas drafts bill of rights for foster children

Similar list of rights failed in 2007 legislative session.


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Saturday, January 26, 2008A proposed bill of rights for Texas’ 17,000 foster children died in the Texas House last year after a contentious debate that one opponent said would have children demanding designer jeans. But the head of the state agency that oversees the foster care system has been quietly working to make that list of rights a reality.

Shortly after the legislative session ended in May, Commissioner Carey Cockerell of the Department of Family and Protective Services decided the agency would draft such a list, a spokesman said. That quick action came as a shock to state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, the Austin Democrat who sponsored the bill in the House and watched it get derailed on a technicality.

“I have to admit, I was very surprised — and obviously quite pleased — to hear of the department’s plans,” Rodriguez wrote in a letter to Cockerell last summer.

The agency’s list of 32 rights — plus 13 more for those 16 and older — is similar to the list in the failed legislation.

Starting in the next couple of months, foster children will be told of their right to, for example, live in a safe, healthy and comfortable place, officials said.

The children, their caregivers and their case workers will sign a form saying they have read and understand the rights.

And the state is planning to design a coloring book this summer to communicate the rights to young children, according to a draft state plan.

Texas officials say these are rights foster children already had under state law.

“The idea was, let’s collect them all and package them together and label them a bill of rights and make sure that when every child comes into care, he or she has a copy of this so there’s no misunderstanding and there’s full disclosure about what rights a child actually has and doesn’t have,” said Cockerell spokesman Patrick Crimmins.

The bill of rights made it through the Senate last year but encountered criticism in the House. State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, took issue with a provision that guarantees freedom from corporal punishment and another that guarantees foster children clothing comparable to that of other children in the community. Riddle, who said she has been a foster parent, suggested at the time that a child might “wave their bill of rights and say, ‘It is my right to have designer jeans because the neighbors have it.’ ”

But Rodriguez said that critics were simply afraid children would sue foster parents.

He said Tuesday the bill of rights would have been stronger as a state law rather than what it is now — a rule from a state agency. But he said the purpose is the same. “They have (these rights); they just don’t know that they have them,” he said.

When I was 8, 9 and 10 I was a bully. I hit and kicked other kids all the time. I never threatened a teacher though. But I could have.

This little boy threatened his teacher with a plastic knife or fork. And he had to go to jail. Would that happen in other “civilized” countries? Does it happen to white kids from good neighborhoods? It shouldn’t happen to anyone!

New Project Seeks Justice for Vulnerable Children

Darius was only 9 when he was locked up. For two months, he languished in a juvenile facility — alone, frightened. He missed his 10th birthday party. He missed Thanksgiving. He missed his stepfather’s funeral.

His offense: He had threatened a teacher with a plastic utensil.

Unfortunately, Darius’s early introduction to the juvenile justice system is not that uncommon.

Across America, countless school children — particularly impoverished children of color — are being pushed out of schools and into juvenile lock-ups for minor misconduct that in an earlier era would have warranted counseling or a trip to the principal’s office rather than a court appearance.

The problem is particularly acute in the Deep South, where one in four African Americans live in poverty.

The children and teens most at risk of entering this “school-to-prison pipeline” are those who, like Darius, have emotional troubles, educational disabilities or other mental health needs.

But rather than receiving the help they need in school, these vulnerable youths are being swept into a cold, uncaring maze of lawyers, courts, judges and detention facilities, where they are groomed for a brutal life in adult prisons.

“Our juvenile prisons and jails are overflowing with children who simply don’t belong there,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “These are the children who desperately need a helping hand. Instead, we’re traumatizing and brutalizing them — increasing the risk that they’ll end up in adult prisons. It’s tragic for the children and bad for the rest of us, because it tears apart communities, wastes millions in taxpayer dollars and does nothing to reduce crime.”

To attack this problem, the Southern Poverty Law Center has launched a multi-faceted new initiative, called the School-to-Prison Reform Project. Based in New Orleans, the project is seeking systemic reforms through legal action, community activism and lobbying to ensure these students get the services — both in school and in the juvenile justice system — that can make the difference between incarceration and graduation.

Nationwide, almost 100,000 children and teens are in custody. Black youths are vastly over-represented in this population; they are held in custody at four times the rate of white youths, according to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. Students with disabilities that would qualify them for special education services are also grossly overrepresented. Some studies suggest that as many 70 percent of children in juvenile correctional facilities have significant mental health or learning disabilities.

“These are the children left behind,” said Ron Lospennato, an SPLC lawyer who heads the new project. “They are paying a heavy price because of short-sighted policies based mainly on fear and myths. Someone must be there to catch them before they fall through the cracks.”

The pipeline begins in the classroom, where black students are disproportionately affected. Nationally, black students in public schools are suspended or expelled at nearly three times the rate of white students, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis of U.S. Department of Education data.

The state with the worst disparity is New Jersey, where black students are almost 60 times as likely as white students to be expelled for serious infractions. Many other states also had striking gaps in discipline rates. In Alabama, a state where more than a third of all public school students are African American, black students are expelled five times as often as whites.

Once a black student is pushed into the juvenile justice system, the pipeline takes another tragic turn. The proportion of black youths within the system grows at each stage — from arrest through sentencing — until this group, which represents only 16 percent of the nation’s youth population, accounts for 58 percent of the youths admitted to state adult prisons.

“The vast majority of children caught up in the juvenile justice system have not committed violent crimes and do not deserve to be sent to prison,” Lospennato said. “And what most people don’t know is that thousands of non-violent kids get locked up for months even before their cases are heard.”

Students in special education are especially at risk of being pushed into the pipeline.

“Often these students are simply acting out of frustration because they can’t keep up with the others, and they’re not getting the help they need in class,” said Jim Comstock-Galagan, founder and executive director of the Southern Disability Law Center, which has partnered with the SPLC on the School-to-Prison Reform Project.

Poverty makes the situation worse, because a family may not have the resources needed to successfully demand the special school services that can prevent an outburst of misbehavior. It also means a detained child might find her fate in the hands of an overworked and underpaid public defender who has little or no training in the field of juvenile law.

Cohen noted the importance of basing the project in New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina exposed the country’s racial and economic disparities.

“In opening the New Orleans office, we are sending a message, loud and clear, that the key to addressing these inequities is ensuring all children receive the education they deserve and are guaranteed under federal law,” Cohen said.

The project grew out of the SPLC’s legal work representing children with disabilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

SPLC won key victories
The project has already won key victories for many school children in Mississippi and Louisiana. Settlements reached with school systems in Louisiana’s Jefferson, East Baton Rouge and Calcasieu parishes, for example, will ensure that quality special education services are provided to thousands of students. The settlements also have provisions that will enhance school experiences for all children, not just those with emotional or learning disabilities.As for Darius, the SPLC won his release from juvenile detention and helped him receive mental health treatment near his home and special education services at school. A program to help strengthen family relationships was part of the treatment.

“There are thousands of children like Darius whose lives can be saved if we reform this broken system,” Cohen said. “That’s what this project is all about.”

Editor’s note: Darius’ name has been changed to protect his identity.

This is only good news AFTER I figure out how to block calls. But I guess it is good for other people.

Texas the last state to give inmates regular phone privileges

For the first time ever, Texas prison inmates will soon be able to pick up a phone and reach out to family and friends on a regular basis.

I just saw this and I think it is really warped. 

Kids: The New Voice In The Abortion Debate

The bell rang and the eighth graders jumped up, eager to compare notes.

“I named my baby Kyle Patrick,” one shouted.

“Mine is Antonio!”

At the urging of an antiabortion activist, they had each pledged to “spiritually adopt” a fetus developing in an unknown woman — to name it, love it from afar and above all, pray daily that the mother-to-be would not choose abortion.

“Maybe one day you’ll get to heaven and these people will come running to you . . . and say, ‘We’re all the little children you saved,’ ” activist Cristina Barba said. She smiled at the students in their Catholic school uniforms. “Maybe you really can make a difference.”

Thirty-five years after Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, opponents are pouring resources into building new generations of activists. Young people are responding with passion.

Today’s students and young adults have grown up in a time when abortion was widely accessible and acceptable, and a striking number are determined to end that era.

Pew Research Center polls dating back a decade show that 18- to 29-year-olds are consistently more likely than the general adult population to favor strict limits on abortion. A Pew survey over the summer found 22% of young adults support a total ban on abortion, compared with 15% of their parents’ generation.

Click here to continue reading

Here are some suggestions for those kids that might actually be more helpful than what they are doing:

  1. Learn more about how to NOT become pregnant.  This is called sex education.  The real stuff that includes contraceptives and how to use them.  Prayer might be less effective than condoms.  Just sayin’.
  2. Help change this country so that women who want to have babies can get daycare and healthcare and jobs that pay them enough to raise the babies.
  3. Spend your time opposing war, capital punishment, drunk driving, cancer, heart disease, child abuse and all of the other things that kill people.
  4. Help get national health care for the United States so that women who know their fetus will be a baby with health problems will be more likely to choose to have the baby.
  5. Focus on the choices you want to make for yourselves, but let the rest of us make OUR own choices.

By the way, this is my “blogging for choice” post. 

You know, people said I was a little weird and too interested in politics when I started a political blog at age 14.  But this is WAY too involved, WAY too violent and WAY too young!

A 15-year-old detained near the Afghan border has confessed to joining a team of assassins sent to kill Benazir Bhutto, officials said Saturday, announcing the first arrests in the case since the attack that killed the opposition leader.

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