News Briefs for November 2002

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Should Convicted Kids Go to Class? Two Philadelphia high school students are suing the school district over a state law that prohibits them from returning to regular class because they’ve had brushes with the state juvenile justice system. The law requires them to attend schools for disruptive youth.

The Education Law Center and the Juvenile Law Center argue that the law unfairly targets Philadelphia youth (it applies only to them) and does not give schools discretion for handling minor offenses. One of the youths was sent to a juvenile facility for shoplifting; the other was placed on probation for throwing a bottle at a police car.

Games and Violence: Media scholars from two dozen universities have urged the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a St. Louis County, Mo., law that prohibits minors from renting or buying violent video games. The scholars argued that, contrary to popular belief, extremely violent video games do not cause violent behavior in youth. The University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Wales and London University were among the institutions represented in the brief.

More SCHIP Waivers: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently granted permission to Oregon and Minnesota to use their share of federal State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) money to cover more children and adults than allowed by the law. Some members of Congress have questioned the Bush administration’s practice of granting waivers under the $40 billion S-CHIP program.

Fattening Up: Nearly 9 million American youth ages 6 to19 – or 15 percent of that age group – are overweight, according to new information from the National Center for Health Statistics. More than 10 percent of kids age 2 to 5 are overweight, the center said, citing numbers from a 1999-2000 health and nutrition survey. The center said only 5 percent of 6- to 19-year-olds were obese in 1980. Contact: (301) 458-4636.

Smoking Law Impact:
New laws designed to prevent the sale of tobacco to minors in Texas led some youths to steal more cigarettes, according to a survey released last month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The survey of middle and high school youths (“Usual Sources of Cigarettes for Middle and High School Students – Texas, 1998-1999”) found that after the laws were passed, middle school smokers were less likely to buy cigarettes from stores (dropping from 13.2 percent to 5.3 percent) but more likely to steal cigarettes from stores (up from 8.3 percent to 12.3 percent). Cigarette smoking among the middle schoolers fell 20 percent. Contact: (404) 639-3311,

Youth Morality: Today’s kids cheat, steal and lie far more than youths did a decade ago, according to the latest annual youth ethics survey by the Josephson Institute of Ethics. In the survey of 12,000 high schoolers, the number who say they stole from a store within the past year rose from 31 percent in 1992 to 38 percent in 2002, while the percentage who say they cheated on tests and lied to their teachers and parents also “increased substantially.” No word on whether the kids do any of that more than adults. Contact: (310) 306-1868.

Adoption and Birthrate Rewards: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded 23 states and Puerto Rico a total of nearly $17.5 million for increasing the number of children adopted from state-supervised foster care in fiscal 2001. States received a bonus of $4,000 for each additional child adopted in fiscal 2001 compared with fiscal 2000. For a list of states, go to

The department also awarded $100 million to four states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands for achieving the nation’s largest decreases in out-of-wedlock births between 1997-2000. Each state and D.C. received $19.9 million.

Crackdown on Adults: New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (D) has signed a law that lets youth sports associations banish misbehaving adults from sporting events until they take an anger management course.

Suspended for Finger-Pointing: A sixth-grader in Muskogee, Okla., got five days of in-school suspension last month for pointing his finger like a gun at classmates, according to the Associated Press. The boy was to be removed from class and work on assignments in a supervised environment. A Creek Elementary School principal said the gesture could be interpreted as threatening.

Juvenile Death Penalty: The U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to review the death penalty for juvenile killers, refusing by a 5-4 vote to hear the case of Kevin Nigel Stanford, a Kentucky man convicted of killing a woman when he was 17.