Monday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Student’s Questioning Violated Fourth Amendment, Court Rules, Education Week

A school resource officer violated the rights of an 8-year-old student when he detained the youth and intimidated him into crying, all to coax a confession from another student who was the real suspect in the theft of a dollar bill, the state’s highest court has ruled.

The Delaware Supreme Court held that the student was “seized” under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and that the officer lacked immunity for his actions. The 3-0 ruling by a panel of the court also reinstated state law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment against the officer, the state, and the Cape Henlopen school district.

Single Iranian Women Over 30 Can Adopt Girls, Tehran Times

The director of children and adolescence office at the Welfare Organization has announced that a regulation is being introduced that would allow single women over 30 to adopt girls.

Hamidreza Alvand, in an interview with the Persian service of the Mehr news published on Friday, said that the conditions under which single women over 30 could adopt girls are: having no criminal records in following Islamic rules, having good financial status, being in sound physical and psychological conditions, practicing one of the religions stated in the Iranian constitution, not having any sort of addiction to drugs or alcohol, and being free of sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) and other sort of incurable diseases.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 4 million children and adolescents in this country suffer from a serious mental disorder that causes significant functional impairments at home, at school, or with peers.  Additionally, 21% of children between ages 9 and 17 have been diagnosed with a mental or addictive disorder that causes at least minimal impairment.  Despite this high prevalence rate, NAMI reports that in any given year, only 20% of children with a mental disorder are identified and treated. That’s a lot of kids to not receive treatment, and the consequences can be tragic.  Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among youth aged 15 to 24.  Of those children who commit suicide, over 90% have been diagnosed with a mental disorder.   Additionally, 50% of teens with a mental disorder will drop out of school.  Many of these youth will wind up in the criminal justice system.  The National Institute of Mental Health found that 65% of boys and 75% of girls in juvenile detention have at least one mental disorder.  And why are these children so undeserved?  Well one reason is that we continue to cut funding for mental health programs.  In the last three years, states have cut a combined $1.8 billion for mental health care from their budgets.  Additionally, in the last five years, we have eliminated 4,000 inpatient hospital beds.  Dr. Denise Dowd, who authored a paper on firearm-related injuries on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, stated, “We have plenty of beds for kids with gunshot wounds, but a kid with a mental health problem, that’s another issue.  We don’t have beds for those kids.”  In addition, we have a woefully inadequate number of child and adolescent psychiatrists.  The federal government estimates that we will need 12,624 child and adolescent psychiatrists by the year 2020.  The projected number is just 8,312.  Currently, we have only 6,300 nationally.  Nebraska has only 30 child psychiatrists in the entire state, or one for every 11,000 children.

Friday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Time to Revisit Juvenile Sentencing Practices, Daily Press

One year ago, in the case of Miller v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole may not be imposed upon children, even in cases involving a homicide. The court had earlier ruled in Graham v. Florida that minors cannot be sentenced to life without parole in non-homicide cases.

These cases followed the decision in Roper v. Simmons wherein the court ruled that children cannot be executed because it would violate the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The Court noted in that case that brain science and studies of adolescent development make it clear that young people are different from adults in myriad ways, including their ability to comprehend risks and their ability to consider the long-term consequences of their actions. In pointing to these differences, the Court listed specific factors related to the youthfulness of the defendant and other factors that should be weighed when such extreme sentences are being considered for children. These include the child’s age, role in the crime, history of abuse and neglect and other key factors. As Members of Congress who have long worked for change in our nation’s juvenile justice laws, we are pleased that these rulings are forcing states and the U.S. government to reconsider the ways we hold children accountable. We believe these cases require our federal and state governments to reform our juvenile sentencing practices.

Applications for Grants Could Cover 75 Percent of Kids at Risk of Becoming Criminals, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

State agencies are reviewing grant applications for programs designed to reach up to 75 percent of the teenagers 16 and under who have been identified as at risk of falling into criminal lives. Though there is not enough money to fund all the requests, the grant proposals have been submitted by 57 counties for local programs that could divert the teens from the juvenile justice system and possibly prison in their adult years.

As part of efforts to reform Georgia’s juvenile justice system, $5 million in state dollars and another $1 million in federal money is being offered to juvenile courts for programs that will address the circumstances that may have pushed some youth to break the law: anger issues, drug or alcohol use or dysfunctional home lives.

Is Your Child Safe While at School?, Family Law Prof Blog

In 2011, the Center for Disease Control collected a wide range of data concerning violence and children within school. While these facts fall short of the horrific events that happened in 2012, the numbers are still cause for great concern. While we strive to implement plans and ideas that can keep our children safe, a large number of children experience the worst parts of life in what should be one of the safest places on the planet for them.

Monday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Bill Signed for County Court at Law, AliceTx.com

Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently signed into law House Bill 3153, which is a cause for much celebration in the Jim Wells County Courthouse.

The bill provides for the creation of a county court at law that will free up the county and district court, allowing more cases to be resolved. According to the bill, the county court at law would have concurrent jurisdiction with the district court to hear cases in which the “matter in controversy exceeds $500 but does not exceed $200,000, excluding interest.”

The new court will also have jurisdiction over family law cases and proceedings, class A and class B misdemeanors, juvenile cases and appeals from justice and municipal courts.

Law Could Set Stage for Juvenile Justice Reforms, The Texas Tribune

In Travis County, juvenile justice officials have decided that they can do a better job than the state in dealing with the most troubled local offenders, considering Texas’ history of scandal and violence in youth lockups.

“We will no longer commit kids to the state,” said Jeanne Meurer, a Travis County senior district judge. “We will take care of all of our kids.”

New Guide to Program Evaluation Released, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

As funders, programs and the public increasingly understand the importance of evidence based practice, nonprofit leaders are feeling more pressure to prove the effectiveness of their initiatives. To help organizations interested in creating or strengthening a research base for their work, the Vera Institute of Justice recently released a new publication, “Measuring Success: A Guide to Becoming an Evidence-Based Practice.” The guide, which was funded by the MacArthur Foundation as part of its Models for Change initiative, is written primarily for juvenile justice initiatives, but may be helpful for other youth-serving programs as well. [Editor’s note: The MacArthur Foundation is a funder of the JJIE.] Although evaluation is beneficial for any program, the guide cautions that “the steps described here are neither simple nor easy.”