Weekly Roundup

Minors Charged as Adults Sue County for Placing Them in Solitary Confinement

In King County, Washington, four minors who were charged as adults and were placed in solitary confinement are suing the county. The county has a practice of placing youths in isolation before their trial dates. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges “King County regularly confines children incarcerated at the RJC [Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent] alone in miniscule, barren cells for 23 or 24 hours a day in a unit dedicated to isolating children…[and] King County holds children in these isolation cells for weeks or months on end.” Read more here.

Opioid Orphans

The current opioid crisis is leading to “a generation of children…being neglected, abandoned or orphaned by parents addicted to opioids.” Grandparents, then, are often called on to take the place of the parents. Here is one of their stories.

Schools Start to Reopen in Puerto Rico after Maria, But Many Remain Closed

Some children are able to head back to school in Puerto Rico, but many others may have to wait for months to return to school. Read here for more.


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

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is linked to delayed brain development, The Washington Post

For the first time, scientists can point to substantial empirical evidence that people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have brain structures that differ from those of people without ADHD. The common disorder, they conclude, should be considered a problem of delayed brain maturation and not, as it is often portrayed, a problem of motivation or parenting. Read more.

Depression Strikes Today’s Teen Girls Especially Hard, NPR

It’s tough to be a teenager. Hormones kick in, peer pressures escalate and academic expectations loom large. Kids become more aware of their environment in the teen years — down the block and online. The whole mix of changes can increase stress, anxiety and the risk of depression among all teens, research has long shown.

But a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests many more teenage girls in the U.S. may be experiencing major depressive episodes at this age than boys. And the numbers of teens affected took a particularly big jump after 2011, the scientists note, suggesting that the increasing dependence on social media by this age group may be exacerbating the problem. Read more.

School district chiefs: Proposed Medicaid changes would hurt poor children and students with disabilities, The Washington Post

A new survey of school district leaders across the country finds that they are deeply worried that Republican proposals to refinance Medicaid, if they become law, would hurt students who live in poverty and those with disabilities and in special education. Read more.

Student Discipline in Schools: Part of the Problem or the Solution?, Campus Safety

More and more school districts and local officials around the country are considering revising their student disciplinary policies.

The efforts reflect a change in the approach to fostering a positive school climate that has gained support as additional research has come out on the impact on certain punishments on children.

An increasing number of organizations have begun supporting alternatives to long-used methods of student punishment like expulsion, suspension, restraint and seclusion.

Most notably, the Department of Education has begun actively promoting school environments that are safe, supportive and conductive to learning. Read more.

Study: Listening to youths could improve justice system, TribLive

Allegheny County could improve its juvenile justice system — along with the lives of the region’s poorest and most vulnerable children — by doing more to listen to juvenile offenders, identify disruptions in their home lives and incorporate their input into policymaking, a report published Monday found.

The Pittsburgh Foundation announced the completion of an eight-month study that involved partnering with community-based nonprofits to interview 53 youths and young adults with former or active cases in the county’s juvenile justice system. Foundation officials expect the 31-page report’s findings to spur grantmaking opportunities and community partnerships. Read more.