UH Law Professor comments on Houston case involving 12-year-old convicted of felony

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In Houston, a 12-year-old girl was recently convicted of a felony for taking a photograph of a classmate in a locker room. Professor Marrus, from the University of Houston Law Center, was quoted in a Houston Chronicle article covering the case.

Following quoted from Houston Chronicle article:

‍University ‍of ‍Houston ‍law professor Ellen Marrus sympathized with the victim but said prosecutors should not have charged the girl with a felony. “If we’re trying to make children into criminals and make them have a record and to have them be punished, then a felony is appropriate,” Marrus said. “If the idea is that our juvenile courts are different and we’re trying to change children’s behavior, then there are better options.”

To read the entire Houston Chronicle article, click here: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/12-year-old-convicted-of-felony-for-locker-room-4813385.php

Yoga: Relaxing Exercise or Hindu Religious Indoctrination?

http://www.consciousconnectionmagazine.com/2013/05/growing-a-business-with-yoga-alliance/

Paul Ecke Central Elementary School in Encinitas, California has started teaching yoga classes to its elementary school students. The classes are to be held twice weekly for thirty minutes a session.

Some parents are raising religious objections to these classes, fearing that the program will promote Hindu religious beliefs. They are claiming it violates their First Amendment rights. One parent said that the school is using yoga as “a tool for many things beyond just stretching.” While many parents have said that their children enjoy the classes, about 200 people have signed a petition saying they are against the program.

The program is supported with funds from the nonprofit Jois Foundation, founded in memory of the father of Ashtanga yoga. Some foundation leaders have equated the physical act of yoga to part of a broader spiritual question, which Dean Broyles, attorney for the Plaintiffs, views as problematic. He explained that, “There is a transparent promotion of Hindu religious beliefs and practices in the public schools” through the program. He asked, “How is a sun salutation or a lotus position not a worshipful pose?” Broyles has explained that the opponents to the Ashtanga yoga classes are not against yoga; they are against the fact that the Jois Foundation has specifically described Ashtanga Yoga as spiritual.

There is a bit of a disagreement as to whether or not the district officials have removed the mystical, spiritual, or religious nature of the yoga. Some say it was removed to make it appropriate for an elementary school class and some say it was not removed because it was not present to begin with. Either way, it is apparently the district, and not the Jois Foundation, that is selecting the teachers and writing the curriculum.

Apparently, the classes are not mandatory for students. The school superintendent, Tim Baird, clarified by saying, “If your faith is such that you believe that simply by doing the gorilla pose you’re invoking the Hindu gods, then by all means your child can be doing something else.” One parent, James Lawrence, has removed his children from the program. He would prefer that his children receive another form of physical exercise instead, but the school has no second option. Instead, his children, along with all of the other children choosing not to participate, do homework or read during the sessions. Further, the plaintiffs allege that children who have opted out of the program have been harassed and bullied.

Enyedi, the yoga instructor, seemed to defend yoga from an exercise/athletic perspective. She said, “The Ashtanga yoga sequence helps me as an athlete. I’m not a Hindu.” One teacher at the school explained that yoga is helping the students; it has helped create a level of focus in the students after they have completed the stretching exercises. The district has said: “We’re not teaching religion. We teach a very mainstream physical fitness program that happens to incorporate yoga into it. It’s part of our overall wellness program.”

Monday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

From prison to juvenile justice lawyer, San Francisco Chronicle

Francis Guzman, who was sentenced to 15 years at age 15, has become an advocate for juvenile justice.

“Kids don’t make smart decisions,” Guzman said. “But ultimately, you are not the worst thing you have done. The weakest thing I did made me the strongest person I am today.”

Guzman, given the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s “Outstanding Achievement Award” in 2007, is now in high demand to speak in low-performing schools, youth lockups and juvenile justice panels around the country. After putting himself through the UCLA School of Law with financial aid and funds from the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship For New Americans, in 2012 he won a coveted Soros Justice Fellowship, a two-year grant that will fund his work at the National Center for Youth Law in Oakland to study alternatives to placing youths who are first-time offenders of serious crimes in adult prisons.

Mother of Virginia boy who was arrested over toy gun criticizes case’s handling, The Washington Post

The gun came from a dollar store. It was a cheap plastic fake with a bright orange tip that Nakicha Gilbert’s 10-year-old son bought during a visit to a cousin’s house.

“It was a toy,” Gilbert said. “A toy.”

Her son had it in his backpack when he went to Alexandria’s Douglas MacArthur Elementary School on Feb. 4, and he took it out on a bus ride home, placing it in his front pants pocket. He showed one boy, who immediately recognized it was not real, according to his mother.

It is unclear how many other children noticed or talked about the toy gun, but one girl told her mother that the episode frightened her. The girl’s mother called the school immediately and e-mailed school officials that she was uncomfortable sending her children to school until she could be certain the 10-year-old was not armed.

Questions remain about abduction of of girl, age 5, The Philadelphia Inquirer

The arrest of a 19-year-old woman in the kidnapping and assault of a 5-year-old West Philadelphia girl may have eased the fears of parents living near the Bryant Elementary School.

But Thursday’s arrest of Christina Regusters left unanswered the larger question of who else – if anyone – was involved in the Jan. 14 abduction of the kindergarten pupila by a woman wearing Muslim garb.

Regusters, a Maryland native who began living with West Philadelphia relatives about a year ago, was officially charged Friday with kidnapping, conspiracy, aggravated assault, rape, and related offenses.

The charge of conspiracy means she allegedly had one or more accomplices. But three others police took into custody with Regusters on Thursday afternoon from the house in the 6200 block of Walton Avenue were released that night without being charged.

“This is very much an active investigation,” said Philadelphia Police Capt. John Darby of the Special Victims Unit.