Weekly Roundup

Texas’s “Bathroom Bill” Still Very Much Alive

In an effort to legalize discrimination against transgender Texans, the Texas Senate has voted once again to advance SB 3, also known as the “Bathroom Bill.” Make no mistake about it: the Republican Party of Texas, despite its rhetoric, prioritizes cheap political parlor tricks over doing what’s in the best interest of its citizens (but I suppose when you elect a former shockjock conservative talk radio host as Lieutenant Governor, you get what you proverbially pay for). Notwithstanding the clearly discriminative effect this bill (should it become law) would have on transgender kids, a segment of the population already more prone to suicide than the average, the bill would have a deeply corrosive impact on the Texas economy, with companies like IBM, Facebook, Amazon, et al coming out strongly against the bill. Read more.

Texas to Lose Galveston and Hill Country Children’s Therapy Providers

“Children in the Galveston and Hill Country areas are going to be without state-funded speech, occupational and physical therapy services as two more providers prepare to leave the Early Childhood Intervention program.” Read more.

 

NAACP: School Choice is not the Answer to Improving Education for Black Students

“Education for black students in the United States has long been unequal and inadequate, but the solution to that problem does not lie in the school choice movement, NAACP leaders said at the organization’s national conference Wednesday.” The NAACP’s task force on quality education expressed its view that “even the best charters are not a substitute for more stable, adequate and equitable investments in public education.” Read more.

Juvenile Defense is a Matter of Life & Death

This summer, I have had the extraordinary privilege of interning at the Texas Innocence Network. The Texas Innocence Network is committed to representing current inmates who have viable claims of actual innocence (TIN’s “non-capital” division), as well as inmates on death row who have already been sentenced to death (TIN’s “capital” division). Working in the capital division, I’ve conducted research on behalf of our clients, drafted portions of § 1983 claims and petitions of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, and—just about ten days ago—met with a few of our clients at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas, where Texas imprisons its inmates who have been found guilty of capital punishment and have been sentenced to death.

My trip to death row was a lot of things: surreal, stressful, eye-opening, humbling—the list goes on. More than anything, though, it was tragic. Each prisoner on death row carries a tragic story, a story that often begins and ends with the unnecessary taking of a life. In my experience working at Texas Innocence Network this summer, I have learned that there exists something of a common denominator among our clients, and presumably among the rest of the approximately 250 inmates on death row. In seemingly every case, a client had far more difficult an upbringing that I could ever imagine. In most cases, a client’s presence on death row is not that client’s first taste of our criminal justice system. Usually, a client’s first foray into the frightening world of arraignment hearings and trial dates and guilty verdicts will have come far sooner, when that client was just a kid. And, in a country and in a state that appears none too concerned with the reintegration of its inmates back into free society, often that client finds himself back in the system once, twice, perhaps even more times, until he finds himself awaiting the gurney.

I don’t want to make excuses for people who commit heinous crimes. I think everyone believes that people who commit violent crimes ought to be punished. But I would echo Professor David Dow in his plea for all of us as citizens of Texas and as citizens of the United States to do more. The intersection of cyclical poverty and the criminal justice system and its resulting effects of disproportionate sentencing and recidivism is an issue far too complex for a rising 2L to solve on a blog post. However, it is undoubtedly the case that far too many of our clients were initially convicted of a crime as juveniles (with oftentimes overworked or downright inadequate legal representation), beginning a long and frustrating process that resulted in tragedy for themselves, for victims and victims’ families, and for all of us, who are absolutely complicit and therefore culpable as voting citizens in a state where the death penalty is legal. In order to save lives, it is imperative that we invest in and prioritize juvenile defense. Whatever we’re doing now isn’t enough.

Weekly Roundup

Schools Rethink Lunch Policies That Humiliate Kids

Recently, the United States Agriculture Department has confronted the problem of food shaming in schools where students lack the funds to pay for their lunches. The Agriculture Department has not removed the most jarring examples like hand stamping and swapping out hot food for cold foods, but it has pushed for methods to improve communication with parents in handling food debt. Similarly, California, Texas, and New Mexico have also adopted their own state school lunch improvements so that children can be appropriately fed while at school. Read more here.

When Education Is Hijacked By War

The New York’s Times recently covered the story of Diego Ibarra Sanchez a photographer and documentarist who is currently working on a documentary on the effects an active war zone has on education. Mr. Sanchez is most known for his photography, which strikingly depicts the difficulties that children face to seek education in war torn Pakistan. In this article, Mr. Sanchez shows his work and displays some of his world class photos. Read more here.

Children’s Toys Can Spy On Them Through Cameras and Microphones, Warns FBI

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center divisions have issued a warning regarding internet connected toys with microphones and cameras. According to the FBI, the video and voice recording systems in these toys could be abused and the GPS functionality could be used to locate your children. To prevent potential concerns one should make sure that all internet connected toys are turned off when not in use. Moreover, the ICCC has provided a list on how to manage potential security concerns (see list here). Read more here.