News Briefs for October 2002

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Checking Up on Child Workers: The new head of Florida’s Department of Children and Families, Jerry Regier, said the beleaguered agency will conduct criminal background checks on its 24,000 employees at least twice a year, instead of once every five years. The move was prompted by a Miami Herald report that 183 agency employees had criminal records.

Less Smoke: Teen smoking continues to decline. A survey released last month by the American Legacy Foundation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the number of high school students who smoked at least once in the previous 30 days dropped from 29 percent in 2000 to 23.8 percent this year. At middle schools, the rate dropped from 11.2 percent in 2000 to 10.6 percent. The results come from a survey of 9,661 youths at 69 schools.

According to the CDC, 34.8 percent of high school youths reported smoking at least once in the previous 30 days in 1999, and 28.5 percent in 2001. Contact:

Gun Violence Pledge: Youths around the country will be asked to sign a Student Pledge Against Gun Violence on Oct. 24, which has been named the Day of National Concern About Young People and Gun Violence. The pledge, which organizers hope will be distributed to every student in middle and high school, asks youths to promise to: never bring a gun to school, never resolve a dispute with a gun, and try to stop friends from resolving disputes with guns. While the pledge is fairly new and there are no studies of its impact (as there are for virginity pledges, for example), the Student Pledge Against Gun Violence organization says, “There is power in large numbers acting together. … If they take the pledge and mean it, others will, too.”

Contact:, (507) 645-5378.