Wednesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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Reporting on the Plight of Troubled Children, Chicago Tribune

The newspaper learned the state’s main emergency youth shelter in Chicago’sBronzeville neighborhood was overcrowded . . . Police reports, state data, and more than two dozen interviews showed that a lack of available foster homes and other options for hard-to-place children meant some were staying there much longer than a 30-day limit, thus creating occasional overcrowding that had grown worse in recent months.

A runaway problem at the shelter requires hundreds of police visits a year. And the newspaper found that a growing number of older teens with criminal histories are put under the same roof as much younger children – including babies.

State Study: Fewer Kids Getting Arrested at School, Orlando Sentinel

A new state study says the number of students arrested at schools was cut in half during the past eight years, which “correlates” with a decline in juvenile delinquency.

The Department of Juvenile Justice report says school arrests fell from more than 24,189 in the 2004-05 school year to 12,520 last year. School delinquency arrests fell 36 percent during the same period.

“While these numbers continue to move in the right direction, there is much work to be done to reduce unnecessary arrests in our schools,” Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters said in a statement. “Misdemeanors accounted for 67 percent of all school-related arrests and 51 percent of schoolchildren were arrested last year for their first offense.”

Howard Mediation Center Resolving Conflict at Schools, The Baltimore Sun

Unexplained yet simmering enmity exploded into a series of face-to-face confrontations among about 20 girls at the Homewood Center. Teachers got hurt preventing the arguments from becoming physical, and hallways were often deemed unsafe.

That’s when Howard Community College’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center stepped in. The group conducted two informal meetings with the girls — all of whom sat in a circle and took turns talking. Then center staff trained Homewood staff in its mediation and resolution practices.  The Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center has been dealing with conflict in the Howard community for the past 22 years, including boundary disputes between neighbors, anger-management issues of college athletes and disagreements among teacher groups.

At Homewood, not only were the problems between the girls defused; according to Homewood Center statistics on discipline, between a four-month period before the practices were implemented and the four months after, out-of-school suspensions decreased from 196 to 148, office behavior referrals decreased from 299 to 76 and absences decreased from 2,131 to 1,860.

Jefferson Attorney Seeks to Open Juvenile Courts, Louisville Kentucky Courier-Journal

If Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell has his way, Kentucky’s judicial system could undergo a drastic overhaul in the coming year – with a severe loosening of some of the strictest juvenile court secrecy laws in the nation. O’Connell has  proposed a bill that would lift the cloak of confidentiality in juvenile court, following through on a promise he made in July amid controversy over the high-profile case of 17-year-old Savannah Dietrich, who’d been threatened with a contempt charge for tweeting the names of two boys who assaulted her.

Under the proposal, all felony cases involving juveniles aged 13 or older would be open to the public, and other cases in juvenile and family courts would be presumed to be open unless the judge or one of the parties involved could show a good reason to close the hearing.

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