Leading with Conviction

Prison Reform Organization Initiative – Apply Now

JustLeadershipUSA is an organization dedicated to cutting the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030. JLUSA empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform and you can read more about their mission here. This organization uses advocacy campaigns, leadership training and member engagement to work towards this end goal.

JLUSA has created an initiative, entitled Leading with Conviction (LwC), that identifies community leaders who have been personally affected by incarceration and employing them to help drive policy change. LwC is a cohort based, 12-month opportunity for leaders from around the country that takes place both in-person and remotely. You can read more about the program here and here.

If you know anyone who might be a good candidate for this program, please pass along the information to them. The application deadline in September 15th and they can apply online using this link.

School Resource Officers: More Harm Than Good

Anyone who has seen just one of the numerous videos floating around the interwebs of police officers assaulting students in schools should care about what is happening to our children in the place where they are supposed to feel safest. Check out those videos here, here, and here. These so-called police officers are actually school resource officers (SROs for short) and people across the U.S. and Canada are finally taking notice that they do more harm than good.

It is no secret that children of color and those living in low-income communities are arrested disproportionately and introduced into the system at higher rates than their White/Caucasian and higher-income peers. The disparity between black and white student suspensions is even higher in schools with increased security measures and, within his data set, nearly two-thirds of African-American students were going to schools in the highest third in terms of security level. Read more here.

SROs were originally hired to bridge the gap between law enforcement and these communities and to keep schools safe from shootings and intruders, but I would argue that having them in schools has the opposite intended effect. Due to SRO presence and racist mandatory reporting policies even more juveniles are being introduced to the system unnecessarily. Texas Appleseed, an organization that attempts to eradicate the school-to-prison pipeline, is asking Dallas ISD to recognize that SRO presence is hurting children rather than helping them. They urged the district to get rid of them and provide better training for school administrators to deal with the problems in-house. Read that letter here.

When “handling” leads to a suspension or worse, it can have an adverse effect on a student’s development. A study by The Council of State Governments Justice Center found that, when controlled for campus and individual student characteristics, being suspended or expelled made a student nearly three times more likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system within the next year. Read more here. Why should we care? Once in the juvenile system, the experience becomes normalized and kids’ chances of recidivism increase. Not only does this make communities less safe, it makes children less safe.

Activists are starting to speak out about this issue, but more can certainly be done. Canadian officials just pushed back the vote until December, meaning there will not be any resolution for at least another school year. Read all about Canada here.

What can we do in the U.S.? Get out there and vote for democratic officials who will fight for the rights of low-income children. Call your Congressman or local official and tell them that this is an issue you care about. Talk about this issue with family, friends, co-workers. Find a local place to volunteer or reach out to a teacher or administrator and ask how you can support them. It is easy to feel hopeless in today’s political climate, but we are not. There is always something we can do.

Weekly Roundup

Abbott signs House Bill 3859 into law

Governor Abbott recently signed a House bill that allows religious adoption agencies to reject applications from same-sex couples. Proponents of the bill argue that it will help to keep adoption agencies from leaving the state, but opponents believe this will make the foster care crisis even worse by excluding not only same-sex couples but also members of certain non-Christian religions. Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of GLAAD, said, “As a mother, it saddens me that a child can now be denied the chance to live with a loving family in Texas.” This law means that children in Texas now have fewer options for getting adopted, and these organizations have more opportunities to discriminate against the LGBTQIA community. Read more here.

Michelle Carter found guilty in texting assisted-suicide case

Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on June 16, 2017 after sending numerous text messages to her boyfriend encouraging his death by suicide back in 2014. Massachusetts, the state where Carter lives, does not have a law on the books against assisted suicide. Yet, Carter now faces up to 20 years in prison. This verdict potentially sets a dangerous precedent for words alone constituting murder charges. “This is a killing in which the murder weapon was words, and that is an incredibly broad view of causation and an incredibly broad view of the manslaughter laws in Massachusetts and creates serious concerns about expanding criminal law without doing so through the legislature,” ACLU Massachusetts’ legal director Matthew Segal told Newsweek Friday. This could have dangerous implications for children and teens, as they primarily use text messaging for communication. Read more here.

Children dying in hot cars and not all states have laws to protect them

An average of 37 kids die in the United States each year from vehicular heat stroke. According to NoHeatStroke.org, Texas had the most such deaths from 1998 to 2015, with 100. Florida had 72 deaths, California had 44, Arizona had 30 and North Carolina had 24. 12 children have died so far this year alone, including a 5-year-old boy in Arkansas who passed away after being left in a day-care van (Read about it here). Only 19 states have active laws that make it illegal to leave a child alone in a vehicle. Given that children are especially at risk to vehicular heat stroke due to their biology, it is puzzling that not every state has laws protecting them in place. Read more here. An especially bright 10-year-old boy has an invention on GoFundMe to protect children from car related deaths, click here to read about his product and donate.