Top Headlines 11/23

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Child Welfare

Sasha Aslanian of Minnesota Public Radio looks into the steep drop in child abuse cases in the state that began in 2008. You would think such a phenomenon would have policy makers tap dancing, but such an abrupt drop in a lousy economy seemed only to make them wary.

Education/Jobs

The Dallas Morning News’ Holly Hacker goes in depth into the successes and failures of New Orleans charter schools, relevant to regional neighbor Dallas’ small but growing number of charter schools.

With much attention of late on the alarmingly low teen employment rates this year, Jeremy Olson of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has a different take, breaking down a recent Minnesota report that shows lower teen employment is not inherently negative. The report suggests economic factors are not entirely at play and that more schoolwork in high school focused on getting into college may be taking priority over finding a job for today’s teens.

Juvenile Justice

Gazette.net reporter Zoe Tillman does a nice job explaining the case of the teen accused of killing a teacher at Maryland’s Cheltenham juvenile facility when he was 13. The judge will first decide whether the law allows the teen to be tried as an adult (he’d be the youngest in state history), and then prosecutors must successfully argue for a transfer, Tillman explains.

Lawyers for the boy are asking that, if the judge does allow for possibility of transfer, that a jury decide whether or not to transfer the youth. This is a significant request: judges routinely handle such decisions on the front end of juvenile cases, but a recent case before the New Mexico Supreme Court dealt with the exact same concept: that a juvenile’s due process rights should afford him a jury decision on transfer.

MyFoxNY.com’s Barbara Nevins Taylor reports two interesting things in this posting. First, one of New York’s juvenile facilities is now completely empty and fully staffed. Second, that New York City has filed a lawsuit that “claims the state is overcharging the city and counties throughout the state for services that it is not really providing by charging the localities for empty facilities.”

The Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, which represents the interests of state advisory groups, issued its 2010 Annual Report this week. The report is issued to Congress and the administration, and each presents a set of recommendations on the federal role in juvenile justice, which is mostly the purview of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The primary recommendation is the same as 2009: reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974. Among the recommendations this year:

-Require states to develop a system for child welfare and juvenile justice organizations to identify and intervene with youths involved in both systems.

-Mandate that states limit zero-tolerance policies at school “to the original intent of the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994”

-A set of three recommendations that would push schools to develop alternative avenues of discipline to use in lieu of referring cases to the police and the courts, and enabling schools to use Title I funds from the Department of Education to develop those alternatives.

-Fund OJJDP to serve as the central repository for data on juveniles who are tried and sentenced as adults.

Another federal juvenile justice advisory body – the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinqueny Prevention – will hold its next meeting on Dec. 3.