Thurday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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Dallas Area Schools to Face Federal Civil Rights Complaint, The Washington Post

Students as young as 12 in the Dallas area are being charged with misdemeanors and sent to Texas’s adult courts when they skip school, in truancy practices that are among the country’s harshest, according to a complaint advocates plan to file with the Justice Department’s civil rights division Wednesday.

The complaint — from three public interest law centers against four Dallas area school districts and Dallas County’s truancy courts — alleges that students have been denied constitutional rights, handcuffed and fined in a court system that does not appoint legal representatives or provide the confidentiality protections of juvenile court.

Texas sends 113,000 students, ages 12 to 17, to courts for truancy violations each year, more than twice as many students as in the other 49 states combined, according to lawyers filing the complaint. The complaint said that last fiscal year, Dallas County truancy courts prosecuted more than 36,000 truancy cases.

New York Brings Juvenile Justice ‘Close to Home’, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

NEW YORK–New York’s juvenile justice system is slowly being overhauled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Close To Home initiative, a set of proposals designed to keep youth close to their communities and facilitate their return to society.

Last fall, about 200 juvenile delinquents were transferred from non-secure facilities upstate to equally secure, residential facilities in the city and placed in or close to their communities. By the end of this year, at least 130 city juveniles who have been detained in limited-secure facilities in New York state are also scheduled to be moved. Non-secure facilities do not rely on physically restricting constructions or hardware. Confinement and escape are not a primary concern.  Limited-secure facilities have certain security measures, such as fences and locked room doors.

Senate Committee Approves Life with Parole in 40 Years for Juveniles in Capital Murder Cases, The Republic

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas senators acted quickly on Gov. Rick Perry’s call to approve a new punishment for 17-year-olds convicted of capital murder, voting on Wednesday to require a sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after serving at least 40 years.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee met just one day after Perry added the item to the special session’s agenda. Lawmakers are also considering political district maps, transportation funding and abortion laws.

Texas previously required a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole in capital cases involving 17-year-old offenders, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an Alabama case that such sentences were cruel and unusual punishment for minors.

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