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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. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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