Friday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Texas high court to consider whether SCOTUS’ Miller ruling on juvie LWOP is retroactive, Grits for Breakfast

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals this week agreed to hear arguments in Ex Parte Terrell to determine whether the Supreme Court’s Miller v. Alabama – a case which banned life without parole (LWOP) sentences for juveniles if lesser options weren’t offered – applies retroactively in Texas. As I understand it, there were around 28 Texas prisoners convicted of capital murder at age 17 between 2005, when LWOP was made a sentencing option for adults, and 2009 when the Legislature eliminated life without parole for juveniles 16 and under. Currently, juveniles sentenced to capital life are eligible for parole after 40 years.

Exclusive Interview with Robert Listenbee, Incoming Head of Federal Office of Juvenile Justice, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

JJIE.org spoke on the phone Monday with defense attorney Robert Listenbee Jr., who was recently picked by President Barack Obama to lead the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the U.S. Department of Justice. The office has not had a permanent administrator for four years. Listenbee, who has not yet received a formal federal appointment, continues to head the juvenile unit at the Defenders Association of Philadelphia in the meantime.

Kids, Cops, and Confessions: Inside the Interrogation Room, Juvenile Justice Blog (book review)

Friday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Connecticut Mulls Outlawing Juvenile Life Without Parole, JJIE

Connecticut’s Sentencing Commission is currently evaluating a proposal that would outlaw juvenile sentences of 10 years or greater without parole opportunities, The CT Mirror reports.

The proposal, if enacted, would affect every juvenile in the state currently sentenced to 10 or more years. Offenders sentenced to 60 years or less would have parole hearings after serving half of their sentences, while offenders sentenced to 60 or more years under the proposal would have parole eligibility after serving 30 years.

Under the sentence modifications, young people sentenced to 20 years would become eligible for parole by the time they were 24, while 17-year-olds sentenced to 60 or more years would have parole opportunities when they turned 47.

Be Careful when “Making Healthy Choices,” ChildLaw Blog

Attorneys who represent youths, parents, and foster parents have reason to be concerned about a pamphlet recently published by the federal government’s Children’s Bureau. The pamphlet, “Making Healthy Choices,” is intended to advise youth in foster care about psychotropic medications and is being distributed nationwide in English and Spanish.

Unfortunately, the pamphlet encourages youths to fill out a checklist/questionnaire of crimes they may have committed and to list deficits in their personalities and character. The youths are encouraged to share the checklist/questionnaire information with people who have authority over them. We believe that the result will be stigmatization of youths and in some cases even arrests and convictions flowing from youths’ confessions to criminal acts.

We intend to ask the Children’s Bureau to withdraw or revise its pamphlet/questionnaire. Attorneys who may be interested in joining in this recall effort may request further information by sending an e-mail with the text “subscribe—Children’s Bureau pamphlet:” to eopton@youthlaw.org.

New Report Examines High Cost of School Discipline in Budget-Stressed Texas School Districts, JJIE

The Austin-based advocacy organization Texas Appleseed recently released a report examining the financial impact on several Texas school districts of using exclusionary discipline techniques, including expulsions, out-of-school suspensions and alternative education program referrals.

The findings in “Breaking Rules, Breaking Budgets: Cost of Exclusionary Discipline in 11 Texas School Districts” stem from an evaluation of about 25 percent of the state’s 4 million public school students. According to researchers, the total “cost of discipline” for the 11 school districts studied resulted in a combined $140 million in expenditures from 2010 to 2011. The combined cost includes a number of factors, including the cost of operating alternative education campuses, security and monitoring expenses and overall lost state funding due to out-of-school suspensions.

Researchers said that budgetary constrictions – including a recent $5.4 billion cut to the state’s public education budget – means Texas school districts will have to be more strategic in selecting effective, evidence-based programs to improve student outcomes.

Saturday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Here’s a look at today’s top stories affecting children’s rights, juvenile justice, and education:

Juvenile offenders: Leaving room for hope behind bars (Editorial), LA Times

Gov. Jerry Brown has before him SB 9, an important but in the end quite modest bill that would modify life-without-parole sentences for most inmates who committed their crimes as juveniles. The bill would put California, at long last, in the company of most of the world’s civilized societies by recognizing the fundamental difference between juveniles and adults and opening a small window of hope, late in life, for those who perpetrated violent and cruel acts in their youth.

Research Shows Suspensions Don’t Work, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

The problem I see as a parent looking at high school is that suspensions don’t work. Yet, suspension is one of the most used practices in the nation’s schools. According to a 2008 U.S. Department of Education study, more than 3.3 million students are suspended from schools each year.

If you’re African American or Latino, according to a report by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, Opportunities Suspended: the Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion from School, you’re much more likely to be suspended than if you were white.

“This first-ever breakdown of nearly 7,000 districts found that 17 percent of African-American students nationwide received an out-of-school suspension compared to about 5 percent of White students,” the report read. “The comparable rate for Latinos was 7 percent. The data analyzed covered about 85 percent of the nation’s public school students. The suspension rates were equally striking for students with disabilities and revealed that an estimated 13 percent of all students with disabilities were suspended nationally, approximately twice the rate of their non-disabled peers.”

Appeals Court Backs Student Religious Club, Education Week

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Minneapolis school district likely engaged in impermissible viewpoint discrimination when it barred a religious club for elementary students from an after-school program open to other community groups.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis, ruled unanimously in favor of the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Minnesota, a chapter of a Warrenton, Mo.-based Christian organization that sponsors after-school Good News Clubs, in which Bible lessons are delivered to club participants at public elementary schools across the country.