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!

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

Next Page »