Harris County’s Innovative Approach to Juvenile Justice

Starting in August, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office implemented a diversion program for children found in possession of marijuana. Under the program, children will be able to simply take one Saturday class to avoid incarceration. The program’s purpose—to avoid childhood detention for minor drug offenses—is in line with the goals of Harris County’s newly elected judges and District Attorney Kim Ogg.
Additionally, the Harris County District Attorney’s office has funded another juvenile diversion program for those in Houston’s Fifth Ward. The program is designed to help the area’s teenagers who have been a part of the juvenile justice system. The hope is that the services, mentorship, and volunteer opportunities offered will help the teenagers stay out of the justice system and uplift the community as a whole.

You can read more about the Fifth Ward Juvenile Justice Program here.

Weekly Roundup

Football’s Brain Injury Crisis Lands in Family Court

This article speaks of the increasing number of disputes between divorced parents regarding a child permittance to play football. The primary concern that arises between divorced parents stems from footballs high likelihood of injury, which leads to differences in opinion. Many times judges must walk a tightrope on how to rule over family court disputes regarding football-related disputes because of the possibility of injury. You can read more here.

Letting Teenagers Live

The author of this articles notes that a week after the shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman High School, a child from the same high school died in a car accident. Recently, gun control has been pushed to the foreground in American politics. However, an issue that has fallen by the wayside is the regulation of teenage driving. Recently, the number of accidents caused by teenage driving have dropped, however, there is still room for improvement. You can read more here.

‘I’m all alone’: the child refugees desperate to be reunited with family

Currently, the UK accepts a number of child refugees who are unable to reunite with their parents. The author of this article speaks of a few first-hand experiences where he learned of the difficulties refugee children face without their parent. On March 16, the House of Commons, which assist in the reunification of refugee families. You can read more here.

Barbie unveils dolls based on Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Katherine Johnson and Chloe Kim

Before International Women’s Day Mattel released a small number of specialized series of “Inspiring Women” Barbies, which will fall within Mattel’s “Shero” line. The “Inspiring Women” series will include figures like Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Katherine Johnson, and Chloe Kim. Mattel is acting after it received feedback from over 8,000 mothers across the globe which noted that 86% had concerns with the role models they are exposed to. You can read more here. 

Teenagers and Sleep Deprivation: A Solution Schools Aren’t Accepting

What is one public health concern for which experts across the board have determined a reasonable solution? Sleep deprivation in teenagers exacerbated by the early start times of most public high schools. I know this problem firsthand. I have a teenage son who has to catch his bus for high school at 6:30 am. Most school nights he’s up until 11:00 pm doing homework, and then he gets up at 5:30 am so he’s able to get to the bus on time. Six and a half hours of sleep is not enough for a teenager!

Experts from the American Medical Association (“Sleep deprivation is a growing public health issue affecting our nation’s adolescents, putting them at risk for mental, physical and emotional distress and disorders.…We believe delaying school start times will help ensure middle and high school students get enough sleep, and that it will improve the overall mental and physical health of our nation’s young people.”) to the CDC (“Starting school later can help adolescents get enough sleep and improve their health, academic performance, and quality of life.”) agree that later start times for schools will have beneficial effects on teenagers. However, even with research showing that later start times will help sleep-deprived teens, school districts have been slow to make changes, citing costs to switch the start times and the timing of after school activities.

Public schools are strapped for funds as it is, so any change that requires a large expenditure may be tough to implement. However, the benefits of improved academic performance and less tardies and absences due to teenagers getting more sleep would seem to outweigh the cost issue. The after-school activity argument is also hard to accept. Many extracurricular activities actually have early morning practices, meaning students have to leave their houses before 5:00 am to make it to practice. Also, some after school practices do not even start right after school. My son’s marching band practices usually start an hour or more after school lets out, meaning he has to come home and get back to school or just wait around the school for a few hours until practice starts.

California tried to pass legislation to require all schools to have start times no earlier than 8:30 am, but the legislation was put aside for the time being because there were not enough votes to pass it. It will be interesting to see how this debate plays out over the next few years as the medical evidence continues to show the problems with such early start times of high schools. Will school districts see the value in giving students a chance to be less sleep-deprived? Or will costs and other concerns keep the districts from implementing any changes in this regard? No matter what, if change comes, it will come too late for my teenage son who will be out of school before any change comes to his district.

Sources and for more information:

AMA Supports Delayed School Start Times to Improve Adolescent Wellness

CDC: Schools Start Too Early

If later school start times are better, why aren’t they more popular?

Why Does High School Still Start So Early?

Later school start times for California students laid to rest for the year