Weekly Roundup

Let’s change the conversation around mental health, Michelle Obama, February 17, 2016

“Sadly, too often, the stigma around mental health prevents people who need help from seeking it. But that simply doesn’t make any sense. Whether an illness affects your heart, your arm or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there shouldn’t be any distinction. We would never tell someone with a broken leg that they should stop wallowing and get it together. We don’t consider taking medication for an ear infection something to be ashamed of. We shouldn’t treat mental health conditions any differently. Instead, we should make it clear that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength – and we should ensure that people can get the treatment they need.

That’s why the Affordable Care Act expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits and parity protections for more than 60 million Americans and required new plans to cover depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for kids.”

Criminal Justice Bill Tackles School Prison Pipeline, Ellen Yu, February 15, 2016

“Georgia lawmakers are considering a criminal justice reform package that includes changes to school disciplinary procedures.

[…] 

SB 367 would enact reforms recommended this year by the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice, which said in its report that “most young offenders outgrow delinquent and criminal behavior with increased involvement in school and work.”

“[Y]et schools are one of the largest referral sources for delinquency complaints filed in the juvenile courts,” the report said. 

The proposal would require local school boards to establish a system of “progressive discipline” before filing a complaint against a student for “disrupting a public school.”  

“They are encouraging the use of educational approaches to resolve discipline problems in school as opposed to defaulting to exclusionary practices like suspension and expulsion and complaints being made with the juvenile court,” Carter said of the recommendations. 

[…]

According to data compiled by the Georgia Legal Services Program, 50 percent of students expelled in Georgia in the 2011-2012 school year were African-American. African Americans represented 37 percent of students enrolled. 

Marlyn Tillman, co-founder of Gwinnett SToPP, a parent advocacy group to stop the “school to prison pipeline,” said the changes are long overdue. Her son was suspended in the 10th grade for a T-shirt interpreted by the school as being gang-related. 

“To treat things like a zero-tolerance or to be overly punitive on everything is just not good,” Tillman said. “It’s not healthy for our state, it’s not healthy for our community and it’s not sustainable.”

Broken Foster Care System Is Breaking Lives, Jacqueline Floyd, January 22, 2016

3In the years that followed, Danny’s life followed a miserably predictable downward spiral. He was shuffled from one home to the next, sometimes enduring further abuse from older children, then starting to prey on younger kids himself. He disrupted his classes, had fantasies about hurting or killing himself.

As a result of his tour through Texas’ foster-care system, Danny, who is now 14, is “a very disturbed boy … with a high risk for sexually harming children,” according to a psychologist who examined him.

There are an estimated 11,000 other kids like Danny, permanent wards of the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services.

The barely concealed anger in a federal judge’s 260-page ruling last month suggests  “protective” is a breathtaking misnomer. With the ruthless consistency of a malfunctioning machine, the state takes vulnerable, fragile children – and makes them worse.”

Camille Van Kote

About Camille Van Kote

Camille Van Kote is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. She graduated from Barnard College in 2012. As an undergraduate, she worked as an AmeriCorps member for Jumpstart for Young Children. She was also involved with the Columbia Child Rights Group, where she spearheaded various campus-wide events, including film screenings, conferences and fundraisers, to promote awareness on children’s issues. She interned at Tahirih Justice Center and Kids in Need of Defense, working with courageous women and unaccompanied minors fleeing violence. This past summer, she interned at the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights, an NGO advocating for sexual and reproductive rights as human rights.

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