Friday, September 29, 2006

School Tragedy Related to Internet Safety

I don't genearlly write about youth safety particularly, but the recent shooting at a Colorado high school highlights some interesting issues about youth internet safety. indicates that the shooter may have pre-selected his sexual assault victims, hostiges, and murder victim on (Read Article).

Social networking cites have become all the rage. I've written more generally about child predators before; about predators using these online services as a gateway into the juvenile's lives, minds, and unfortunately sometimes more. This case, however, sheds light on a slightly different issue. Internet safety may not solely concern the juvenile's interactions on the internet -- and any face-to-face connection that might result. Rather, predators might research potential victims without ever contacting them online, thus skipping the intermediate online connection that might seem like adequate protection from predators.

I remember being twelve, surfing AOL profiles and chatting with random individuals online. Somehow it felt safe, comfortable, and completely non-threatened. At the same time, all real personal information remaind hidden -- my name, address, school, etc. Nowadays, however, social networking cites facilitate the dissemination of a large amount of personal information, and the cite users may not know who has this information.

It is not clear how to protect youths and juveniles from those who might use their posted information for malicious reasons. (Or how to protect adults for that matter.) The Internet is a free forum, and that is very much its beauty. On the other hand, perhaps the awful tragedy that happened in Colorado will shed some light on the danger inherent in posting pictures, detailed information, and specific loations of youths online.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Pre-Arraignment Detention of Juveniles

A report by the Children's Law Center and Harvard that examines the duration of juvenile detention pre-araignment has just been released. Read about the report (here).

I was fortunate enough to get to work with some of the early numbers at the Children's Law Center two summers ago. The data is startling. The children are held -- with no chance for bail -- for a long time. Sometimes the children are held over the weekend. In even more extreme cases, the children are held (without having had any sort of hearing or rights to be heard) over a holiday weekend.

If a young lady, for example, was picked up on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving -- theoretically, she could be held until the following Monday. That would be Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday until she could get before a judge.

This is unacceptable. These youths may have committed some offence -- but they also may not have. As the article in the globe indicates, there needs to be more education and attention paid to this issue.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mature-Minor Doctrine

From discussions in my Child, Family, and State course, I have become increasingly interested in the "mature-minor" doctrine. Under this doctrine, when a child appears capable of mature reasoning, that child's wishes will hold more sway with the court.

This doctrine -- and the general principles behind it -- have a broad impact. Most clearly, such a doctrine is applicable in the case of abortion for minor women. The judicial override mechanism exists to allow minor women -- in many states that require parental notification -- to demonstrate their maturity (or that the abortion would be in their best interest).

The mature-minor doctrine is somewhat applicable in other legal areas as well. For example, in tort common law, a youth will be held liable as an adult if they engaged in adult-like behaviors. Thus, if a child is driving a car and gets into a car accident, that juvenile would be held liable in the same way that an adult driver would be liable.

This child-acting-as-adult exception to the status treatment of children as legally dependent could have a deep impact on how children's rights are formed. The juvenile justice system has moved slightly in this direction. The removal mechanisms to place juveniles in adult jeopardy hinges on similar reasoning. The provision of due process rights in juvenile proceedings (from In re Gault), also proceeds on similar reasoning.

The case of juvenile justice demonstrates how this mature-minor doctrine could cut either way for children's rights. Children could be held to higher legal standards, and thus receive harsher punishments, or children could obtain more vestiges of adult rights and find greater legal protections.

My jury is still out on the doctrine, but it is definitely something I'll be thinking about this semester.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Back in Business

This is the start of a new school year. I should have a very child-advocacy-focused year, and I am quite excited about it!

I'm taking a child law class and a comparative family law class this semester. Next semester I'll be doing a children's law clinical (practical experience). Throughout the year I'll be working on my graduation writing requirement. I'll use that requirement as a way to research some issue of children's law.

This blog will probably be focused -- at least for a while -- on trying to figure out exactly what I'll research. I think I may pick up on my inquiry into parens patria from last year -- although in the realm of child welfare, rather than juvenile justice. Suggestions are welcome!