Wednesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Horrific Child Abuse Case Moves Mississippi to Toughen the Law, WLOX 13

Monday, Governor Phil Bryant signed into law HB 1259, also known as the Lonnie Smith Act. It’s named in honor of a Jackson County boy who suffered unthinkable abuse from his own mother.

Supporters said the new law bridges the gap between the legal and medical definitions of child abuse, and takes a stair-step approach to penalizing those found guilty . . .

In 2008, Smith dipped then three-year-old Lonnie, several times into a bath tub of scalding hot water. Lonnie was severely burned, spent nearly a year in the intensive care unit, has undergone numerous surgeries, is confined to a wheelchair and has permanent injuries that will leave him disabled for the rest of his life.

In 2012, Smith was sentenced to 18 years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections followed by five years of Post Release Supervision.

Editorial: Juvenile Court Age Change the Right Thing to Do, Pantagraph.com

In most instances, when a person reaches 18 they are considered an adult. That’s why a bill being considered in the Illinois House that would increase the age for juvenile court jurisdiction to 18, makes sense.

The bill corrects an inconsistency in Illinois law. Currently, offenders who commit misdemeanors are handled in juvenile court until they reach age 18. But juveniles who commit felonies are handled in adult court. The bill, House Bill 2404, would correct that inconsistency . . .

Juvenile offenders who commit serious felonies, many involving violence, already may have their cases moved to adult court.  Those transfers affect juveniles as young as 13.  This bill would not change any of that. Those juveniles who commit serious crimes would still be tried in adult court under the existing transfer laws.

The bill would affect a small number of juvenile offenders who commit felonies, usually not involving violence, at the age of 17.  Currently, those cases are heard in adult court and the juveniles are sentenced as adults.  The result is that instead of receiving community-based services that have proved to be effective, the juvenile is placed in jail or prison with older criminals.

Madison Simis Fourth-Grade Class Helps Heal a Painful Past, AZ Central

Evan Lory attended Madison Simis Elementary School, 34 years ago this month,

. . . a then-14-year-old Lory and another boy pedaled furiously away as a fire spread through the administration building, principal’s office and then the library.

The teenage Lory was found guilty of starting that fire and spent four months in juvenile detention. The damage was estimated at $400,000; his parents would have to pay half of that.

What Lory did that night in 1979 would haunt him, always. He was racked with guilt and struggled with alcoholism. There was no taking it back, no undoing it. He could only hope, one day, to apologize.

Lory, now 20 years sober, finally got his chance late last year. He nervously posted an apology on the Madison Simis Alumni page on Facebook. It brought relief — and forgiveness.

But while his former classmates had been generous after the apology, posting supportive comments on Facebook and sending him private messages, Lory was wary of what students who attend Simis now might think about what he had done to his — to their — school.

Jean Long’s fourth-grade language-arts students would erase that doubt for him.  Long had read about Lory and the fire at the school where she teaches the Academic Enrichment Program for gifted kids in The Arizona Republic in January. She read the article aloud to her class as a real-life lesson on making good choices, and the students wrote letters to him afterward.

“Dear Mr. Lory,” they all began. . . “I have learned that I should think twice before I do anything from your actions,” wrote one student. “I have always joked of burning the school down but after our teacher read the news article I never thought of it again. I learned it could get me in major trouble. Simis has moved on from the fire, and I hope you have too.”

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