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Summit spurs school-focused bill

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A juvenile justice summit by the Indiana State Bar Association in August has led to the introduction of a bill that would change how students are treated in schools and hopefully decrease the number of school suspensions while increasing statewide graduation rates.

House Bill 1193, introduced by Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, marks the first statewide effort of its kind in the country for how it 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.

The bill passed out of committee 10-0 Jan. 12 and has support from a number of organizations.

HB 1193 has two main purposes according to those who support it, including JauNae Hanger, a former commissioner of the Indiana Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services and former chair of the ISBA Children's Rights Committee; and Judge Steven Teske of Clayton County, Ga.

The first goal of the bill is to provide a framework for training officers who work with school-age children. The second goal is to have a working group that will study how those efforts make a difference and what other efforts could be made.

"We train officers how to handle narcotics, DUIs, traffic accidents, but we don't offer the same level of training for those who are dealing with kids," said Lawson, an experienced officer herself.

Juvenile Judge Marilyn Moores of the Marion Superior Court, who testified in support of the bill, also advocated for more police training for officers who regularly work with students and said there needs to be more consistency.

By developing a youth work group, better data will be available about what is being done already and what could be better when it comes to the relationships police officers and others have with children they come into contact with.

Part of the inspiration for the statewide legislation is work Judge Teske has done on a county level as a juvenile court judge for a suburb of Atlanta.

Judge Teske is nationally known for his work with alternatives to zero-tolerance policies. He's worked with school systems in Columbus, Ohio; Madison, Wis.; a county just outside of Boston; and schools in Oregon, Washington, and Louisiana that have similar issues in terms of low graduation rates and high rates of out-ofschool suspensions.

Besides being a keynote speaker at the August summit in Indiana, Judge Teske testified for the bill Jan. 12. He presented data about his county as it related to zero-tolerance policies and alternatives to out-of-school suspensions for students.

In his data, there were 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.

The alternatives were a warning for the first offense, a referral for the student to attend a workshop for the second offense, and a complaint would be filed at the third offense.

Judge Teske said in most cases the offenses would stop after the warning or the workshop. It was also discovered through the data that most of the misdemeanor offenses that caused students to miss school prior to the alternatives were relatively small things like mouthing off or arguments 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. Under the zerotolerance policy, suspension rates doubled, drop-out rates increased, and racial and ethnic disparities also increased.

Russell Skiba, director of the Equity Project at the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University, also participated in the August summit and testified on behalf of the bill. He added there was no proof of any positive effects of zero tolerance and that training was a better answer.

After the officers in Judge Teske's county received training and alternatives to taking students to the juvenile detention center for every seemingly small offense, not only did the numbers and bad behavior decrease on school campuses, the police made new allies in the community.

In one case, it was from talking to students that the police were able to arrest a member of the community who had $70,000 in cash, two pounds of marijuana, and a cache of weapons in his house.

Judge Teske also spoke about the role of school resource officers when there is an actual incident that warrants their attention, such as a student who is threatening his classmates or teachers, as opposed to a student who had a bad attitude but didn't cause or threaten physical harm.

By keeping the police - and probation officers - available for "the kids who scare us," he said, that will prevent worse tragedies than a food fight or a harmless misunderstanding.

As a result of the decrease in suspensions, there was a steady increase in graduation rates from when the alternatives were introduced in 2004 to 2009.

"Who would have thought that if you kept kids in school they would actually graduate?" he quipped.

Judge Teske and other supporters of the bill recognize there is a difference between implementing a program for a county and implementing a program for a state where every county has different needs and resources. Judge Teske said the bill would still allow each county to determine its own best practices based on what was available.

Lawson said she was pleased that all stakeholders in Indiana were willing to come together on this issue. For instance, educators need to teach math and reading, but they can't be effective if they have disruptive students.

But teachers are aware that "if they ask Johnny why he's being disruptive, they have to be prepared to deal with the answer," Lawson said.

This is where social workers, mental health workers, and others in the community can work with the teachers on how to deal with the issues of students who need help by providing information about resources available in the community to children and their families.

In addition to the bill, Hanger and Paje Felts, legislative counsel for the Indiana State Bar Association, said the next step is to finish a report based on what summit participants said about Indiana's current policies. While the report was the first priority following the summit, Hanger said they wanted to keep up the momentum and chose to work on the legislation.

Felts said she was happy to see support for the bill and what it stands for, and that it was rewarding to her and everyone else at the summit that their August discussion would have a lasting impact.

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  1. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  2. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

  3. Low energy. Next!

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  5. OK, take notice. Those wondering just how corrupt the Indiana system is can see the picture in this post. Attorney Donald James did not criticize any judges, he merely, it would seem, caused some clients to file against him and then ignored his own defense. James thus disrespected the system via ignoring all and was also ordered to reimburse the commission $525.88 for the costs of prosecuting the first case against him. Yes, nearly $526 for all the costs, the state having proved it all. Ouch, right? Now consider whistleblower and constitutionalist and citizen journalist Paul Ogden who criticized a judge, defended himself in such a professional fashion as to have half the case against him thrown out by the ISC and was then handed a career ending $10,000 bill as "half the costs" of the state crucifying him. http://www.theindianalawyer.com/ogden-quitting-law-citing-high-disciplinary-fine/PARAMS/article/35323 THE TAKEAWAY MESSAGE for any who have ears to hear ... resist Star Chamber and pay with your career ... welcome to the Indiana system of (cough) justice.

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