kids


Dear Levi & Mercede,

I was sorry to hear about your mom’s arrest and plea for drug use and selling drugs.  I was even more sorry that it’s in the newspapers and on the blogs, and that people are making fun of her.

I am around your age (nearly 18) and my mom has been in jail for almost eight years on drug charges, so I know some of what you are going through.

I am also completely a busybody and am going to use this blog post to give both of you some advice.

  1. Go to Alateen.  Or ACOA.  Or someplace that’s NOT your church where you can learn about addicts and addiction how none of this is your fault and that you can’t cure your mom.  Also, Mercede, if there’s a support group in your town or in your HS for kids who have a parent in prison, GO!
  2. Mercede, I don’t know who you are living with these days, but my brother became my guardian when he was 18, and he was way too young.  And that’s without being a father himself or having reporters and photographers following him around.  I hope that you stay with a family, a whole, real family, at least until you finish HS.
  3. You will find out really soon who your real friends are and who thinks a lot less of you because your mom is in jail.  Sometimes even good friends can be insensitive, but at least they still like you for who YOU are.  Some kids are incredibly creepy and think it’s cool to know someone who knows someone in jail.  Stay away from them.  Same thing with overly curious adults.
  4. People will ask you what they can do to help.  It’s a dumb question, but if they ask twice, tell them to do something to improve life for prisoners and provide treatment for addicts.  You may even want to join organizations that encourage treatment instead of prison for addicts.
  5. Stand up for your mom. Make sure that the lawyers and guardians and corrections people all know that someone is watching and that someone cares. I don’t visit anymore, but I do have an adult in my life who communicates with my mom and with the prison.
  6. Because your mom is an addict like my mom, and because we watched our moms use drugs instead of facing problems head-on, all three of us can become an addict more easily than most people.  So learn what the signs are, and be careful, and watch out for each other.

We all need to work on making this country less inclined to incarcerate addicts and more inclined to help them find treatment.  And that starts with making sure that drug use is not a crime.  Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol and it’s not working for drugs.

I hope you do go to Alateen and counseling and get all the help you need to not have to ride your mother’s roller coaster addiction.  You didn’t cause it and you can’t cure it, but you can learn healthy ways to get through the next few years.

Your friend,

Cassie

As a kid who has been removed from my mother’s care at age 11 and had my father’s rights terminated when I was 14, and lived in several different kinds of family structures, I was very upset when I read this story in my local newspaper.  I do not think it is necessarily a good thing that CPS is  caring for  fewer children than they used to.

CPS: removals of children are down

The number of Texas children removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect has declined following a series of reforms to Child Protective Services, the agency said today.

In the 2008 budget year, CPS removed 14,295 children, which is down from 15,920 in 2007 and 17,536 in 2006. That’s a decrease of 18.5 percent.

“Generally, children do better if they can remain safely with their families,” CPS spokesman Darrell Azar said. “Foster care is really intended as a last resort.”

Lawmakers passed CPS reforms in 2005 and 2007. As part of that, the state invested in programs that help keep families together, including one that provides cash assistance to certain low-income families.

“More often than not, neglect is at the heart of the problem,” rather than abuse, Azar said. “Some families are so impoverished, they can’t meet basic needs. The whole theory behind this is working with the family … to help them find the supports they need.”

Does this mean that they are removing kids just because their families are poor?  If kids really are better off with their families, then give the family the help they need to not be so poor.  Duh!

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Here are three stories involving kids and the authorities, and my opinions about all three.

When I was 14, I got into serious trouble (at home) for sending a photo of myself in a bathing suit to a good friend, and sending pics of myself fully dressed to man I knew only from the internet. I should have been in trouble. I should have gotten internet restrictions and I should have been taught why it could be a serious problem. But I am very glad I was not arrested like these kids.

Pornotots: Teens Charged With Pornography For Sharing Photos Of Themselves

300px-several_mobile_phonesProsecutors have discovered another hotbed of child pornographers: Greensburg Salem High School. Prosecutors have charged teenagers with child pornography for sharing nude and seminude pictures of themselves over cell phones. The girls are 14 or 15 and the boys are 16 or 17. Pornographers all.

Capt. George Seranko of the Greensburg Pa. Police Department explains that “It was a self portrait taken of a juvenile female taking pictures of her body, nude.” Teachers seized the cell phone and instead of just calling parents, they apparently called police as well. Additional pictures were found. The lesson, Seranko notes, is “Taking nude pictures of yourself, nothing good can come out of it.” Ok, but where to the criminal charges come into the lesson plan? It appears that turning them into felons is the way that the good people of Greensburg educate their children.

This is a national problem of teens sending semi-nude and nude pictures to friends. Should all of these children be moved into the criminal justice system?

The girls are charged with manufacturing, disseminating or possessing child pornography while the boys face charges of possession. It seems like there is a need for adult supervision at the Greensburg police and prosecution offices.

The next story is of a case that IS a problem, a case where the father should never have custody or visitation of his daughter:

Quick (depressing) hit: California man sells daughter

From the Associated Press:

Police have arrested a Greenfield man for allegedly arranging to sell his 14-year-old daughter into marriage in exchange for $16,000, 100 cases of beer and several cases of meat.Police said they only learned of the deal after the 36-year-old man went to them to get his daughter back because payment wasn’t made as promised. The man was arrested Sunday on suspicion of human trafficking.

What was that again about feminism being unnecessary? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

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I do not know the real difference legally between child labor and child slavery, but I do know that it’s at least 75% a joke (maybe 80%!) when I list on my facebook that my occupation is “kitchen slave”. The girl in this article isn’t kidding and doesn’t have facebook or any other fun in her life. I work harder on chores than a lot of kids I know, but I am NOT a slave.

Child maid trafficking spreads from Africa to US

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, Associated Press Writer

 

AP – Shyima Hall, 19, who was 10 when she was trafficked to a gated community as a domestic worker, is shown …

IRVINE, Calif. – Late at night, the neighbors saw a little girl at the kitchen sink of the house next door.

They watched through their window as the child rinsed plates under the open faucet. She wasn’t much taller than the counter and the soapy water swallowed her slender arms. To put the dishes away, she climbed on a chair.

But she was not the daughter of the couple next door doing chores. She was their maid.

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And no, I don’t just mean by recycling their coke cans! I still don’t like science much, but this story’s pretty cool:

Teen Finds Way to Decompose Plastic Bags in Just 3 Months!

by Kenny Luna, North Babylon, NY

turtle-plastic-bag-photo.jpg

If ordinary plastic bags would rot away like banana peels there’s no doubt a host of environmental problems would be solved, the fate of the turtle above included. And one 11th grader from Canada set out to make that dream come true as part of his school science project. A wildly successful endeavor he figures will make them decompose in just 3 months.

But how did this extraordinary young scientist named Daniel Burd pull it off?

Well, he decided the fact that they do, eventually, decompose after 1,000 years on their own meant there must be something out there causing it, and postulated that it might well be naturally occurring microorganisms behind it.

So he set about with the good old-fashioned scientific method as his guide, searching for the microorganisms, rarely found in nature, that actually do make plastic decompose.

Ultimately, he identified two strains of bacteria that work together to pull it off, with Sphingomonas serving as the primary decomposer with help from Pseudomonas.

And according to Burd, industrial application should be easy, “All you need is a fermenter . . . your growth medium, your microbes and your plastic bags.”

As many folks know, the simplest solutions are usually the ones that work best. And this kid has clearly come up with a potentially world changing idea.

So congrats from all of us here at TreeHugger, where we are inspired by your creativity!

See also:

The TH Interview with America’s Top Young Scientist of the Year!

girl suspended for highlights in her hair

One of the very first posts I ever wrote for this blog was about dress codes. At the time, in Dress codes at school and at work, I asked people’s opinions about dress codes and was fairly comfortable with my school’s policy. I wrote about it again when a student (and her family) sued her school about Tigger and Winnie the Pooh socks.

Now I am glad that my school isn’t as restrictive as Desert Wind School in Socorro, TX. There, an 8th grader is missing prom and graduation because of highlights in her hair. Not purple highlights. Not 5 foot long extensions. Just highlights. And I think she looks pretty cute!

This is from a TV station in El Paso:

Desert Wind School student Denise Guerrero, 14, knew it was against school policy to highlight her hair and she also knew the consequences: if she didn’t remove the highlights, she would miss out on her prom, class field trip, graduation ceremony and soccer games.

“Because I couldn’t be with my friends. I missed out on a lot of things,” said Guerrero.As KFOX reported, Guerrero was assigned to in-school suspension or SAC a month before the end of the school year because she has blond highlights in her hair. She was also told she couldn’t participate in any school activities.Her parents filed a grievance with the Socorro Independent School District. They disagree with the school’s policy and they state other students and teachers color or highlight their hair at Desert Wind School.

But her family disagrees:

“According to their policy, highlights are a distraction. Why isn’t it a distraction by teachers, only by the students,” said Rafael Magallanes, Guerrero’s stepfather.

The principal responded to the grievance and echoed what district officials had told KFOX before. They say the dress code only applies to students and it is applied equally, fairly and thoroughly for all students.Just one week before the end of year activities at Desert Wind, Guerrero discovered the school would not amend the policy. She was told her hair had to go back to her natural color if she wanted to participate in school events. Guerrero said she stood her ground because she felt the policy is not fair. She knew she would be sacrificing events and memories she will never relive.”Soccer, my favorite sport, which I couldn’t get in because of a policy which couldn’t be changed, that’s what hurt me the most,” said Guerrero.Guerrero’s parents could have continued with the grievance process but this year was Denise’s last. Previous Stories:

Slideshow: Eighth Grader Suspended For Hair Color

But the point is, what’s too much restriction for a public school? Banning profanity is one thing. Banning blond is just stupid.  It could be worse.  She could have hair like THIS:

This is TAKS week here in the Texas schools. As a 10th grader, I take four tests this year. Some years we take two and other years three or four, but this is the big year that determines how well our school does compared to other schools. For us as students, every year matters because certain classes are open or closed for the following year depending on whether we pass or fail the tests. But for the school, 10th grade test scores are the ones that decide how well the whole school does. Some schools can even close if their scores are still low.

The Texas Education Agency has told the Austin school district that it needs to use the word “probable” — not “possible” — when referring to the closure of Johnston High School, district officials said.

The shift in verbiage was made at the suggestion of state officials who are part of Johnston’s oversight team because they wanted to underscore the urgency of the situation at the school in East Austin.

Agency officials have said the school, which has received “unacceptable” ratings for the past four years, will be closed or put under alternative management if it fails to achieve an acceptable rating this year.

Under the state’s accountability system, schools are rated “academically unacceptable” if they don’t meet target graduation rates and goals on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Are we being deliberately undereducated or miseducated? Is our whole generation being purposefully denied essential elements of a meaningful education as a byproduct of spending all of our schooling preparing for tests? Is that an accident?

Here’s the disturbing part. The bureaucrats don’t care if WE improve individually from year to year. They don’t care if our CLASS improves. They only care that we do better than last year’s 10th grade, even if they were a bunch of idiots or a bunch of screw-ups or a bunch of genii. By extension, BETTER doesn’t mean that our average is higher than last year’s class. It means that a larger percent of white kids pass (70%) than last year; a larger percent of black kids, a larger percent of immigrants, a larger percent of girls, a larger percent of poor kids, a larger percent of left-handed kids, and a larger percent of soccer players who only eat ice cream for breakfast.

This means that kids like me who get 90% or 99% every time only spend a THIRD of our school time learning how to answer the test questions and regurgitate essays. The poor kids, meanwhile, who got ONLY 60%-80% spend ALL their time on nothing but test practice. Kids in honors or pre-AP or advanced classes learn some other material and get interesting projects from time to time, like in-class debates, short story assignments and geometry construction projects, but the kids in academic or regular classes have every single test look like a TAKS question. That is not an exaggeration.

Last year, my test scores were all above 92%. I could go down by 10 points in every single subject and no one would care. If I went down 20 points, my brother would wring my neck and I’d probably have to drop some honors classes and possibly lose the chance for AP US History, but the state and the government STILL wouldn’t care. I would be within acceptable parameters.

Our school would still show improvement even if every single kid in honors right now dropped to 71% as long as one kid whose older sibling failed last year passed this year. That’s crazy!

Clearly they don’t care whether we as individuals pass as long as the scenario I have presented makes my high school look good. What’s the point? Could it be that the point really is to dumb down yet another generation; to keep us from learning about the Constitution and our rights. Only in understanding them both may we learn when our republic is at its BEST.

Good grief! Didn’t these kids ever learn to write for different audiences? We learned that in the second grade. You use a different style text messaging your BFF or your BF than you do writing an important letter or even a blog post. Duh! And you don’t use smileys on school essays. Jeez people, grow up!

Survey finds two-thirds of teens use chat symbols in class assignments

Laura sent me a link to this blog, and I think it’s amazing.

Days of My Life

Talk about daily life of a teenage girl in Iraq, and days of suffering and success. My nick name will be Sunshine.

The author is my age, but lives in Mosul in Iraq. She talks about school and friends and watching movies in class, but she also talks about the dangers of living in Iraq. Here’s some of what she says that I was really impressed with:

I admire M’s courage, she’s attending school everyday, doing her homework, attending exams and taking 100%, I’d say she’s a hero because she didn’t kill herself after her mom’s death, I can’t find a word to describe her courage, her determination, I don’t know how can she handle everything.. I was there for R, Rita and their families, and I’ll be there for M and help her in every possible way, all the girls in my class are with her, in the break-time, the girls and I explain to her the lessons she missed.

I think some of the stuff she writes sounds just like me.

One of the things that makes me really proud is my blog , you know that..
When I started 3 years ago I had no idea what’s going to happen, I remember the pleasure of receiving the first encouraging comment, and in the next day I got 9 E-mails I started to jump in the middle of the living room shouting “ I GOT 9 COMMENT OH I AM FAMOUS “

I don’t know anyone who has had this experience but I can still relate. I don’t care if it is war or child abuse or having drug addicts in your family, the only way any of us survive is if we have friends who can help us through. Some of what Sunshine writes is so horrible that I can’t relate at all. And I DO know what it is like to be afraid.

On Friday morning, my mom told me that dad was asking her to take care of the kids, and his parents, I went to my room, opened my book to study but I burst into tears, and cried for long time until I was unable to open my eyes, and my book page was completely wet. I throw the book away, and kept blaming myself and cry for not doing my best to fix my relationship with dad, I was telling myself, what have I done? If something bad happens to dad, I won’t forgive myself ever, part of me was ordering me to go to my dad, apologize and make sure he forgives me for every time I was adversarial to him, for every word I said and made him upset, for every night I slept without wishing him a good night, but I couldn’t, I was tight, I don’t know why..

I suffered from horrible headache and insomnia, I want my dad to see me publishing my first book, graduating from the best collage, being successful person in my life, and more important I want to be so nice to him and make him forget everything, every disparity we had, & every time we argued, I hope he’ll forget those memories.. and be proud of the girl he raised, although he tells me he’s proud but I want to make him even more prouder..

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Nope, this is not a post about Iraq, or even about King Georgie.  It’s about 8 kids my age who don’t have the sense God gave a turnip!  According to the L.A. Times,

Eight teenagers have been arrested on charges alleging they beat another teen in an “animalistic attack” so they could make a videotape to post on YouTube.

Seven of them remained in juvenile detention today, authorities said. A boy who was charged as an adult had been released on bail.

That’s right.  They weren’t angry at her.  She hadn’t stolen the boy they wanted to date or told a teacher they were cheating.  They just wanted to make a video!  So eight of them beat her up, then kidnapped her, then threatened her with a worse beating if she went to the police.

When my friend Hazel got a camera that shoots video (when we were 13), we made videos of each other singing stupid songs or pretending to kiss a boy we both liked.  We never even put it up on youtube!

The Times also says that

The sheriff’s office said that after the attack, three of the teens forced the victim into a vehicle and drove her to another location, where she was told she would be given a worse beating if she contacted police.

All eight suspects were arrested April 2 and charged with battery and false imprisonment. The three teens who took Lindsay to the second location are also charged with felony kidnapping.

Lindsay was treated for a concussion, damage to her left eye and left ear, and numerous bruises, police said.

Who ARE these people?  What is wrong with them?  Here is the video if you want to watch, but I wouldn’t bother.

Some teenagers are stupid! And some are just uninformed. They NEED to start giving us the real facts or kids will be killing themselves trying to stay healthy. I wrote about teen pregnancy and sex education previously here and here and here.

Nobody Could Have Predicted…

And on and on…

ORLANDO, Fla. — A recent survey that found some Florida teens believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV and a shot of Mountain Dew will stop pregnancy has prompted lawmakers to push for an overhaul of sex education in the state.The survey showed that Florida teens also believe that smoking marijuana will prevent a person from getting pregnant.

State lawmakers said the myths are spreading because of Florida’s abstinence-only sex education, Local 6 reported.

The kids I know have a lot of opinions about race, but I’d say that in my HS, only about 30% of the kids care at all about politics, and most of them don’t know a lot about the issues. Most opinions are no more complicated that “Dude, that ain’t right.” or “Well he’s a Christian so I agree with him.” But Feministing has this great video up about HS kids in NY talking about Barack Obama, politics and race. The video is kinda long, but really worth watching.

Sorry for the light posting during my vacation. Been having way too much fun to pay a lot of attention to politics. Good thing that people sometimes send me links like this one!

New Poll: 12 Year Olds Know Congress Could Cut War Money, Adults Believe Congress Powerless to End Iraq Occupation

By David SwansonA pair of new polls may suggest the power of falsehoods repeated ad infinitum on our televisions and in our newspapers. The first poll asked 2,000 American 12 year olds whether Congress has the power to end the occupation of Iraq. Minorities believed Congress did not, or believed it could do so if the Democrats had larger majorities. But a 61 percent majority of those polled believed that Congress could simply stop funding the occupation, and that the Democrats in Congress had sufficient majorities to accomplish this without any Republican assistance.

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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.

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. 

I got this from a teacher!  Not one of my teachers, but even so, every little bit helps.  Should I sue the teacher who gave me an 84 on a paper that I wrote in Arial?

Put your paper into Georgia, a serif font, and your grades may rise.

Some enterprising fellow at Fadtastic did the research, and discovered Georgia-fonted papers tend to get A grades, Times Roman-fonted papers get A- grades, and Trebuchet-fonted papers get B grades (”The Secret Lives of Fonts).

Of course, that’s what the type designers, book designers and web designers have been telling us for 20 years — a serif font is easier to read, and makes the reader feel more at ease.  When graders feel good, the paper gets a good grade.  That’s logical.

I also discovered that when faxed to news editors, sans serif fonts get better play.  If the press release is legible, it goes farther.

And, when I was taking broadcast courses, my grades rose significantly when my IBM Correcting Selectric II arrived, and I started doing all my scripts in Orator font.  The teacher, an active newsman at the time, graded higher when he recognized the font more — it was roughly the same font on the teleprompter at his station.

Pick your font and your transmission method accordingly.

The author of this non-scientific study is a web designer, of course.

I’ll bet you’ll find that conclusion, backed with some sort of research, in the book design and web design texts.

Remember when we all used typewriters, and such choices were not options at all?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Graceful Flavor.

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