Bully Foes Pushed Around: Mary Harvey, founder of Prescott, Ariz.-based Safe Schools, Safe Students, is an eternal optimist. Since mid-fall her agency has been hit by four threatening graffiti attacks along with threatening e-mails and phone calls (much of it racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay), and vandalism damaging the power steering of an agency car. "It means we're making a difference," she said. Safe Schools, Safe Students is a comprehensive resource for those involved in school safety and security. Among their services are a newsletter, a website (www.stwnews.org) and a student-run anti-bullying hotline (8NO-BULLIES). Many youths who ran the hotline have left out of fear, according to Harvey. She says the FBI has been called in. The Jewish Defense League has donated an upgraded camera security system and is offering a $1,000 reward to whomever catches the vandals.
Ecstacy's Evil Twin: A drug that is similar to MDMA (ecstacy) but produces less of a high and a greater risk for fatal overdose is being sold as ecstacy. According to DanceSafe, a nonprofit drug public education organization, PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine), which can cause body temperatures to rise dangerously, was blamed for at least nine youth deaths last year in the U.S., plus a number of deaths in Canada, Australia and Europe. According to the DanceSafe website (www.dancesafe.org), PMA "is not being manufactured because people like it. It is being manufactured and sold as 'ecstasy' because the chemicals [needed] to make it are easier to obtain than the chemicals [needed] to make real ecstasy." All known PMA pills are white or tan, thicker than ecstacy pills and bear the Mitsubishi logo. Other types may exist. A single pill can cause a fatal overdose.
IRS Change of Heart: The International Revenue Service (IRS) has changed a policy that disqualified parents of abducted children from claiming them as dependents. Under the new policy parents, who often spend large amounts of money searching for their children, may take the normal dependent child deduction. The new policy applies only to cases in which the child is abducted by someone outside the family, and the parent claiming dependence had the child as a dependent before the abduction. "We think this is a positive step, and a very necessary step," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Alcohol Test Kits: In an effort to cut down on underage drinking, the township of Voorhees, N.J., is distributing free blood-alcohol level test kits to parents of adolescents through a police station and high school. Gary Finger, the mayor of Voorhees, who has two teenage daughters, instituted the program with the idea that young people will be more likely to decline drinks if they know they will be tested when they get home, and penalized if they fail the test. "If my girls have substantially missed their curfew, they know I will be giving them a test," said Finger in a statement. "Refuse the test, or fail the test, the car insurance will be stopped and the car is history." The kit involves a cotton swab for collecting saliva, and a gauge that indicates the blood-alcohol level of the saliva when the swab is pressed against its base.
Shooting at Youth Worker Memorial: A memorial service for a youth basketball coach in Chester, Pa., erupted in gunfire in December, according to the Associated Press. Six people were injured by gunfire, and one by a pistol whip to the head, when a fight broke out toward the end of the service for 36-year-old Gary Scott. The coach had been shot to death a week earlier.
Dorm Brawl: "Keystone Job Corps Center is nestled in the beautiful Butler Valley," says the facility's website, showing a photo of bunkmates sharing a laugh in their dorm room. But in December, the Butler township police chief told the Washington Post that one of the facility's dormitories was "like a war zone." After 30 women and girls clashed with staff members and police officers, four women and seven teens were arrested on charges including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and aggravated assault.
Youth Arrests Drop Back to the '80s
The last juvenile crime data from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) during the Clinton administration show a sharp decline in teen crime, news epitomized by youth murder rates that have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1960s.
"It's a huge drop, much more so when you consider the number of children in that age range has grown slightly," Howard Snyder, author of the DOJ's "Juvenile Arrests 1999," said in a prepared statement.
The youth murder arrest rate fell 68 percent from 1993 to 1999 (reaching its lowest level since 1966), while the juvenile arrest rate for violent crime overall dropped 36 percent from 1994 to 1999, making it the lowest since 1988. Arrests for robbery were down 53 percent from 1994 (lowest since 1980); aggravated assault down 24 percent since 1994 (lowest since 1989); burglary down 60 percent from 1980; larceny/theft down 23 percent from 1997; and motor vehicle theft down 52 percent since 1990.
"The good news is America's kids are acting more responsibly and committing fewer crimes than they have in three decades," says Vincent Schiraldi, director of the D.C.-based Justice Policy Institute. "The bad news is this good news does not seem to be making it onto the front page, or into the public consciousness."
Perhaps more publicity from the president would help. A few weeks after the new crime data came out-and just days before the Bush administration took the keys to the White House-U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher released a report aimed at dispelling myths about youth violence, examining factors that drive young people to violence, and profiling effective violence-prevention programs.
The report was influenced by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's conception of violence as a public health issue, and pushed for by the administration and Congress after the 1999 Columbine shooting. It brings together research in a variety of areas, including trends in youth violence, risk factors and violence in the media.
The report challenges the notion that "a new, violent breed of young 'super-predators'" threatened the United States in the early '90s, that African-American and Hispanic youth are more likely to be involved in violent activities than are members of other racial or ethnic groups, and that "getting tough with juvenile offenders" by trying them as adults reduces the likelihood that they will commit more crime. The 176-page report is free. Contact: U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, Mail Stop: SSOP, Washington, DC 20402, or www.surgeongeneral.gov/library.