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School-focused bill continues to full Senate

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An amended version of House Bill 1193, which came about as a result of a juvenile justice conference in August, passed out of the Senate's Judiciary Committee 6-1 Feb. 10. One major change in the bill approved by the committee was the deletion of the section about training for police officers who deal with juveniles on a regular basis.

"The training is probably the most important thing in this bill," said Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, following the hearing.

Lawson authored the bill after working with conference coordinators, including JauNae Hanger, a former commissioner of the Indiana Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services and former chair of the Indiana State Bar Association's Children's Rights Committee. The bar sponsored the juvenile justice conference last summer.

The other part of the bill, which would create a working group that will study how training efforts would make a difference and what other efforts could be made, remained intact.

The working group would include school system representatives, parents, law enforcement officers, professors, teachers, social workers, attorneys, and other stakeholders.

Hanger said even without training in the bill, the work group would be a helpful way to gather data and present constructive suggestions for schools and the officers who regularly work in school systems.

At the committee hearing, debate about whether to include mandatory training centered around the fiscal impact, reported to be approximately $40,000. While some committee members discussed whether the money could possibly be found in funds that had not yet been assigned to certain programs, experts testified that the funds have to be used in appropriate ways, which could possibly include training.

The length of time it would take to have officers go through training to work with juveniles - approximately two hours - was also debated because of the already full training schedule.

Lawson, an experienced officer herself, disagreed with some of the comments. She testified that part of an officer's training includes specialized instructions to handle DUIs, traffic accidents, and narcotics, and that adding juvenile interaction into that mix shouldn't cause too much of a problem.

Committee members also expressed concern that schools might not want to be assigned one more responsibility when it comes to how superintendents and principals operate their schools regarding discipline.

Judge Steven Teske of Clayton County, Ga., a national expert on how zero tolerance in schools has affected the juvenile justice system, testified for the bill. He also testified for the House Judiciary Committee Jan. 12, and was a keynote speaker for the August conference. At both hearings, he presented data about his county as it related to zero-tolerance policies and alternatives to out-of-school suspensions for students. His presentation appeared to leave an impression on committee members.

His data showed obvious decreases in misdemeanor arrests after the school system, juvenile court, and police department signed an agreement in 2004 that would allow for alternatives to suspension. Judge Teske said most of the misdemeanor offenses that caused students to miss school prior to the alternatives were relatively small things like mouthing off or fights between students. Felonies, which included bringing guns or drugs to school, also decreased nearly 50 percent in his county as a result of alternative punishments.

Judge Teske's data also addressed disproportionate minority confinement, or DMC, something the federal government considers when doling out money to law enforcement agencies that receive federal funds. DMC occurs when a person who is a minority is significantly more likely to have a harsher penalty for the same offense as a person who is not a minority.

Not sufficiently addressing this could result in fewer funds. But addressing it more than other jurisdictions could ultimately lead to more funds, according to those who testified at the hearing.

The bill could also benefit the state in another way: If passed, Indiana would be the first state to have legislation that addresses the roles of school resource officers, educators, mental health professionals, social workers, and others who regularly interact with elementary school, middle school, and high school students.

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  1. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  2. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  3. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

  4. My dear Smith, I was beginning to fear, from your absense, that some Obrien of the Nanny State had you in Room 101. So glad to see you back and speaking truth to power, old chum.

  5. here is one from Reason magazine. these are not my words, but they are legitimate concerns. http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/03/fearmongering-at-the-splc quote: "The Southern Poverty Law Center, which would paint a box of Wheaties as an extremist threat if it thought that would help it raise funds, has issued a new "intelligence report" announcing that "an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) -- a 244% jump." To illustrate how dangerous these groups are, the Center cites some recent arrests of right-wing figures for planning or carrying out violent attacks. But it doesn't demonstrate that any of the arrestees were a part of the Patriot milieu, and indeed it includes some cases involving racist skinheads, who are another movement entirely. As far as the SPLC is concerned, though, skinheads and Birchers and Glenn Beck fans are all tied together in one big ball of scary. The group delights in finding tenuous ties between the tendencies it tracks, then describing its discoveries in as ominous a tone as possible." --- I wonder if all the republicans that belong to the ISBA would like to know who and why this outfit was called upon to receive such accolades. I remember when they were off calling Trent Lott a bigot too. Preposterous that this man was brought to an overwhelmingly republican state to speak. This is a nakedly partisan institution and it was a seriously bad choice.

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