Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Child Abuse

This morning eight months after Police arrested elementary kids for a school yard fight did the Department apparently discipline the Officers involved.  I loved that it took this much time and was done the week of Christmas when schools are closed and it is a slow news week.   And what defines "discipline" means what exactly?  No Christmas pudding for you young man!

 What I also love is that our local news or what I call the Daily Black People report failed to get any comments from the Officers, their Union or event the families involved. When this happened it made The Washington Post so I do find this "So Nashville" when I hear stories about authorities or particularly Police how they bury the stories but any black person who commits a crime is blazed as the lead story. And this story was well into the news after a series of crime stories that lead the daily news versus actual news. Case in point the incident in Berlin was a passing story.

Follow up is not big here as that would require investigative reporting, actual digging, doing a Journalist's job versus just reading the daily arrest reports. But this is the South and if it is possible to dig a deep hole and paint a negative picture then come on down to take a dip in the Red Sea.

Some of the more bizarre stories that I have not heard anything since was the Nashville Public School Tutor who was caught driving around with three kids in the trunk.. yes trunk. Then we have the Teacher who filmed kids and had a history of it but hey whatever. Then we have the Teacher who had a gun at school, unclear what happened there but as I had subbed there it was not surprising in the least.

And when I read the below article nothing surprises me. I had written about the six year old who assaulted her Teacher at an elementary school that was a block away from another that I had subbed at and had locked off the Kindergarten bathroom after repeated damage; And many schools simply lock off the bathrooms or have scheduled breaks as a way  to prevent any future or potential violence/damage. As I have noted in the past these kids spend half their day going to the lavatory either to have some moment alone but I suspect it it is to roam halls and search out potential encounters that could be either positive or negative as I have witnessed both first hand. I have never seen so much hostility and rage in children in my life as I have here, the closest I came was when I both taught and subbed at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle which was well known as a school with immense troubles. But in comparison it seems almost tranquil as to here.

As I have subbed at the next step to Jail school I have heard Students brag about assaulting people, including Teachers, brag about shootings and thefts and mock the numbers of deaths in Chicago due to gun violence as if it is competitive and we are in second place so there you go.  I see endless Police presence at Schools including one to interview me regarding the now familiar "hug" that I have come to learn is some odd black male need to intimate coolness and connection. I see it as bizarre and tragic but not arrest worthy.

I have no problem with homogeneity in our schools and the push for desegregation has forced a dynamic that is failing. I am all against separate but equal as that is impossible when it comes to Education. Equal would mean exactly the same dynamics in place in each school which is virtually impossible. You can however rectify that by having schools that meet the need of the community they serve. Outstanding curriculum and tutoring opportunities for kids who are behind the curve, having extra curricular activities and opportunities that enable kids to meet and interact in a more natural organic way through common interests. Then we have the need for one group to receive access to mental and physical health counseling and services that will compensate for those who do not have same access. That may mean at one school that serves a poorer community that they have a longer school day, have more non profits and professional services that enable families the access they need to help their children succeed. It may mean it will not be equal in costs and that is the real issue. When a school that serves poorer families the cost of educating a student may be 2K per student versus 1K for a wealthier one and that is the unequal part. What is not mentioned is that the difference is already well compensated by that student's family, their PTSA and their economic well being that already secures them a place at the table. Income inequity does not mean education inequity it just means that some will have to get more up front and the other kids will get it through the back door. They both come in the door unequal already but the kid who enters through the back should and could and  more importantly must leave through the front.

If anyone actually believes Education is equal and fair in our current state of desegregated schools has clearly never been in one. The idea that charters is the solution again does not understand how that works, that they can pick, choose and dismiss anyone they don't find appropriate and acceptable clearly has never been in a charter. If we could do that in life we would have what - a homogeneous utterly segregated community. Like likes like and there is nothing wrong with it. But integration is more complex than simply color, it is economic, it is intellectual as both high and low end of the spectrum, it is race, gender, sexuality, faith, and of course physicality. To think a single school by busing kids all over town, give them the same textbooks, the same curriculum guidelines, the same monies to do all that with for each kid then you are a moron and clearly went to a public school.

This is child abuse and those who are abused - abuse.

Arrest of young kids not isolated to Murfreesboro case
Jessica Bliss, The Tennessean, May 2, 2016

Shock reverberated through Middle Tennessee in April when Murfreesboro police arrested 10 elementary-age students for not stopping a fight that occurred off campus days earlier.

Lawmakers, church leaders and social justice experts across the country questioned the rationale behind handcuffing and booking children that young. They pointed to the scarring effects on the student and their peers, as well as the societal pattern of pushing kids, especially the most at-risk, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

When it comes to the arrests of young children in Tennessee, what happened in Murfreesboro is not an isolated incident.

Last year, Tennessee law enforcement made 24,843 juvenile arrests. Of those, 1,960 were of children ages 6 to 12 — the same ages of the children arrested in the Murfreesboro case. The Murfreesboro police chief is expected to meet Monday night with community leaders to review a preliminary report on an internal investigation of the arrests.

"It seems like a small percentage, but still, 2,000 children that age arrested — that’s just mind-blowing," said Craig Hargrow, director of juvenile justice for the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. "Arresting children of that age is just not appropriate, except in extreme circumstances. They are young, they have poor impulse control, and their brains are not fully developed."

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth works to implement the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act — legislation established in 1974 to support local and state efforts to prevent delinquency and improve the juvenile justice system.

The intent is to make kids appropriately accountable and to ensure their contact with the juvenile justice system is rare and fair.

Nationally, juvenile arrest rates have been on the decline since 2006. Similar trends appear in Tennessee. An analysis of juvenile arrest statistics maintained by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows that over a 15-year period, arrests reached a high of 39,018 in 2007. They reached a 15-year low of 24,843 in 2015.

Metro Nashville Police Department juvenile arrest numbers show a similar trajectory.

In the juvenile justice realm, Capt. Gordon Howey, who heads Metro Nashville Police Department's Youth Services Division, said there is increased attention on alternatives to detention — but not necessarily alternatives to arrests.

"There’s not been a concerted effort to say, 'Don’t arrest juveniles,' " he said. The focus, instead, is on reducing the occurrence of crimes. In Nashville many types of crimes have shown a decrease over the past several years, and Howey believes that may correlate to the reduction in arrests.

Despite the decline, Nashville has experienced an increase in youth violence. During the past five years, 16,955 violent incidents in Nashville involved youth, according to a March report released by Mayor Megan Barry’s office. Last year, among the country's 50 largest cities, Nashville ranked second in the highest percentage increase in homicides — from 41 in 2014 to 78 in 2015. Of those, 55 percent of the perpetrators were 25 years old or younger.

A juvenile justice system that diverts minors from jail ranks among six goals in the mayor's report.

Juvenile justice experts say that, except in extraordinary cases, the focus needs to remain on alternative restorative practices instead of punitive police action.

"Courts have become a repository of discipline and the courts are not geared to do that," said Michael A. Corriero, a former New York state judge who is executive director of the New York Center for Juvenile Justice.

Three weeks ago, on April 15, Murfreesboro police arrested 10 children ranging in age from 6 to 12 years old at Hobgood Elementary School and other locations, handcuffing some and transporting them to the juvenile detention center in connection with a bullying and assault incident that happened earlier off campus.

Arrest records show the children alleged to have witnessed the fight were charged with "criminal responsibility for conduct of another," which according to Tennessee criminal offense code includes incidents when a "person fails to make a reasonable effort to prevent" an offense. The offense was assault.

In Tennessee, police departments set their own policies and procedures for detaining a student, according to Maggi Duncan, executive director of the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police. The case has garnered attention nationwide and put a spotlight on police-community relations. The matter is before the Juvenile Court of Rutherford County.

"It's shocking, it's alarming," said Staci Higdon, whose daughter attends second grade at Hobgood. Higdon's daughter was not arrested and did not witness the arrests, but she was still scared to go to school once she understood what had happened.

"She thought there were bad people at school and she was in harm’s way," Higdon said. "It was the fear of the unknown, that bad people were there and she could get hurt.

Though Higdon trusts the administration, she said the arrests have stigmatized the school and the community. There is a concern for the children who were arrested.

Any contact between the child and the system, "no matter how benevolent the mission," is "extremely damaging to a child's self-image and psychology," said Vanderbilt University law professor Terry Maroney, who serves as co-director of the George Barrett Social Justice Program.

And to be arrested at school, she said, is a "uniquely stigmatizing thing because it happens in front of your peers." It is humiliating, and it often sticks the child with a brand of criminality that can be hard to shake.

"Once a kid gets a label of being a 'bad kid,' other kids hold on to that label and the kid himself will hold on to that label," Maroney said. "It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Additionally, it may blur the line in the child's mind between school and police, damaging a child's relationship with the educational system.

Nationally, the number of cases where students have been arrested for incidents on campus remains plentiful.

In 2012 Baltimore city police charged four elementary school students younger than 10 with aggravated assault after a fight and were arrested on the Morrell Park Elementary/Middle School campus, according to WBALTV 11. In Florida more than 100 5- and 6-year-olds were arrested in one 12-month period, ABC News reported.

In Tennessee in 2015, assault (simple and/or aggravated) was the most common offense for that 6 to 12 age group — similar to the Murfreesboro case where children were held responsible for not stopping a bullying and assault incident.

"For all children, but especially ages 6 through 12, they lack impulse control," Hargrow said. "And fighting, although it is not looked upon favorably and shouldn’t occur, is something that is not uncommon for children developmentally that age. That’s why you see a large number of assaults.

"Without the appropriate interventions, they don’t learn how to change their behavior."

When should kids be accountable by law?

In Memphis the School House Adjustment Program Enterprise (SHAPE) aims to reduce the number of Shelby County Schools students sent to juvenile court for minor infractions. Created with a grant from The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, the program works with juvenile offenders providing homework assistance, tutoring, mentoring, counseling, and social and life skills training. Students stay in the program for 90 days.

"The restorative justice model is the direction juvenile court is headed, and from the youth services side we are going to do what we can to cooperate with that," Howey said of Nashville law enforcement.

And juvenile justice experts believe positive programs can have as much of an impact as negative interactions.

"One of the major characteristics of young people is that kids are more malleable than adults," Corriero said. "They are more susceptible to good influences, as well as bad influences.

“They are in the process of growing and becoming."

Added Hargrow: "I just think this is very important for our state to take appropriate action to make sure things like arresting 6- to 12-year-olds just doesn’t occur.

"There’s any number of solutions and alternatives to address, especially the top five types of behaviors, that will teach them more than arresting them will — and that will shield them from additional trauma."

Tennessee arrest numbers show aggravated and simple assaults as two of the top 5 juvenile arrest offenses committed in 2015.

Arrest records in the Murfreesboro case show the children alleged to have witnessed the fight were charged with "criminal responsibility for conduct of another," which according to Tennessee criminal offense code includes incidents when a "person fails to make a reasonable effort to prevent" an offense. The offense was assault.

The FBI defines aggravated assault as an unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. Aggravated assaults can be committed with a firearm, knife or cutting instrument or other dangerous weapons (including clubs, bricks, tire irons). They can also be committed with hands, fists and feet, if the result is a serious injury.

Simple assaults are all assaults that do not involve the use of a firearm, knife, cutting instrument or other dangerous weapon and in which there were no serious injuries to victims.

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