Thursday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Attorney Defends Handling of Rape Case, The News Desk

Defense attorney Denise Rafferty spent roughly 80 minutes on the witness stand Tuesday, defending her handling of the case against a former Aquia Harbour teen now fighting to get his name off the state’s sex-offender registry.

She said she asked Edgar Coker’s parents multiple times for help finding people who would support him in his defense of a 2007 rape charge and for copies of his school records but got no help.

Coker was 15 on June 4, 2007, when he and a 14-year-old neighbor engaged in what the girl and her mother now say was consensual sex.

Attorneys for Coker, who is now 22, are in court this week to try to get his criminal convictions set aside and remove him from the state’s sex offender registry.

Seven Officers at Georgia RYDC Removed after “Egregious Policy Violations,” Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Georgia’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) announced that seven employees at the DeKalb County Regional Youth Detention Center have been removed, following findings from a three-week investigation.

According to Jim Shuler, an official DJJ spokesman, three of the officers, among them the facility’s night shift sergeant, resigned while the review was still being conducted. The other four officers, all of whom were suspended during the investigation, have been dismissed from their positions.

In a press release, DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles said that several night shift officers at the facility allegedly allowed youths to enter and exit the facility at-will.

Perps or Pupils?  Safety Policy Creates Prison-like New York City Schools, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

When Minerva Dickson first saw her high school she thought it looked like a prison. After her first week she realized how right her initial impressions were.

Every day when she arrived at the Thomas Jefferson Campus in Brownsville, Brooklyn, she waited in a line that snaked out onto Pennsylvania Avenue. She would shuffle up two steps passing beneath words from Abraham Lincoln inscribed on the neo-classical pediment: “Let Reverence for the Laws Become the Political Religion of the Nation.”

Next, she reached into her pocket for her identification card and slid it through a machine. When it recognized her, it blurted an approving beep and a green light would flash. When it didn’t, the machine made an abrasive buzzing noise and lit up red.

Clear of the reader, she headed to the metal detectors. There, at least a half dozen school safety agents waited. School safety agents, who answer to the New York City Police Department, wear a police uniform and a shield. A pair of handcuffs dangles from their belts.

Baby Veronica’s Birth Mother: Girl Belongs With Adoptive Parents, The Washington Post

Christy Maldonado lives in Oklahoma. This month she filed a brief urging the Supreme Court of South Carolina to finalize her birth daughter’s adoption by Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

In the summer of 2009, I made the most difficult decision of my life: to place my baby, Veronica Rose, with adoptive parents. Many know her as “Baby Girl” or “Baby Veronica” because her adoptive parents and I fought all the way to the Supreme Court for Veronica’s right to be treated like a human being — not property owned by a Native American tribe.

I am Latina and not a member of any tribe. When I became pregnant, I was already a single mother with two children, in a relationship that was on the rocks. I thought hard about my options and decided I could not have an abortion. I was briefly engaged to Veronica’s biological father, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation, but our relationship was over by my third trimester.

When I asked my ex whether he wanted to be involved, he told me, by text message, that he wanted to give up all parental rights. And that was the last I heard from him. It was clear that my pregnancy and my baby were my responsibility.
New DelhiThe Supreme Court has refused to reduce the age for being considered juvenile to 16 years and has said that even those accused of heinous crimes, but below 18 years of age, will continue to be tried by a juvenile board under the Juvenile Justice Act, and not by a regular trial court.The top court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by an advocate seeking an amendment to the existing Juvenile law to allow those below 18 to be punished under regular law if they are charged with serious crimes.”We uphold the provisions of Juvenile Act. Interference is not necessary,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir.

The petition was filed after the brutal gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student in a moving bus in Delhi in December last year.One of the six men accused of the horrific crime was a minor when the incident happened. He has been tried by the juvenile board and if found guilty, faces a maximum punishment of three years in a correction home.

Thursday’s Children & the Law News Roundup

Supreme Court Issues Notice to Centre on Disparity in Law Over Age For Sexual Consent for Married Women, New Delhi, www.NDTV.com

New DelhiThe Supreme Court today issued a notice to the Centre and sought its response on removing disparity in law relating to the age for sexual consent for married women. This comes after a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by an organisation, Independent Thought, said: “Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code allows sexual relationship with a married girl at the age of 15 and does not treat it as rape, whereas anyone below the age of 18 is a child under various laws – juvenile justice act, protection of children against sexual offenses act.”

 

Florida Law Enhances Special Education Rights 

Florida enacted a new law this week intended to reiterate the rights of parents of special education students, including a provision that parents must agree to have their child placed on a track to earn a non-standard diploma, and that schools cannot discourage parents from bringing an adult of their choice to individualized education program meetings.

Many of the new provisions underline rights that were already a part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, but that parents nevertheless had a difficult time enforcing, Siegel said. Parents have always been a part of IEP team meetings, but Siegel said she has heard of cases where schools were shifting students onto special diploma tracks without giving parents an opportunity to object, or to even see the information that was prompting such a decision. The parents were then forced to shoulder the burden of proving that such a placement was inappropriate. Special, non-standard diplomas also cannot be used to enroll in college or the military, so a student with a special diploma can have limited options after graduation, she said.

The burden has now shifted to the school. Schools must also show why it is necessary for a student to be enrolled in a school that only students with disabilities attend.

Wednesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Summer Jobs May Reduce Teen Violence, Study Says, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Summer jobs may help reduce violence, according to a recent study that found that low-income Boston teens who held down summer jobs were less likely to engage in violence than teens without jobs.

The study, conducted by researchers at Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, surveyed more than 400 young people who obtained employment last summer through a State Street Foundation youth violence prevention program.

During the initial survey, 3 percent of young people involved with the program reported either threatening or attacking another person with a gun in the month prior to beginning their summer jobs. By the end of the program, however, just 1 percent of participants reported attacking or threatening someone with a firearm in the last month of the study.

The Importance of Sensory Integration Therapy, Special Education Law Blog

Sensory integration therapy (SIT) has been one of the treatment mainstays for thousands of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD, or other developmental disorders.  According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), approximately 5 to 15% of children in the general population have sensory processing issues.  School-based and private occupational therapists and parents have brushed, swung, and bounced on balls countless children in an effort to improve their ability to process sensory input.  Yet, the effectiveness of this therapy, despite accolades it has received from therapists and parents, has been questioned.  Now a new study by Lang et al that assesses the benefits of SIT by reviewing 25 existing studies adds additional fuel to the debate.  In a nutshell, the study authors state that SIT is neither effective nor research-based and that agencies (such as schools) that are mandated to provide research-based interventions should not be using SIT.

Kansas Merges Juvenile System and Adult Correctional System, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

This month, a merger of Kansas’s juvenile justice system and adult correctional system goes into effect, with the state’s Juvenile Justice Authority (JJA) officially being incorporated into the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC.)

The consolidation is the result of an executive order proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback at the start of the state’s 2013 Legislative session. The merger, which took effect July 1, is strictly administrative; juvenile populations, while now under supervision from the KDOC, will not be combined with any adult correctional populations.

South Caroline is Faulted on Child Services, NYTimes.com

In South Carolina, people accused of sexually abusing children do not face trial for years. Children who report abuse are not interviewed for weeks. Churches often stand between victims and help.

Those were among the findings of a privately financed report that comes as South Carolina is working to shore up its child protective system. The state is facing lawsuits and legislative scrutiny after a series of deaths, rapes and other assaults on children who were in state custody.
The report was welcomed by Gov. Nikki R. Haley, who said it offered useful recommendations for improving how the state — both the government and its citizens — can better address childhood sexual trauma.